Increasing biodiversity and woodland ecologyAndrew Staib2020-10-06T11:03:23+01:00
Increasing biodiversity and woodland ecology
Woodland ecology is dynamic and woodland management is important to maintain a successful woodland. For example, fungi appears on living trees, decaying branches and the woodland floor, it is a sign of a complex breakdown process which is essential to the woodland ecosystem. Fungi breakdown living and dead plants into simple substances which allows them to feed and grow.
You can be part of the growing wave of people who want to restore UK nature.
The progressive loss and fragmentation of the natural forest that once covered most of the British Isles has left the UK with a much smaller proportion of woodland than many European countries. This has had a dramatic effect on native biodiversity. In 2016, only 13% of the UK land area was forest.
Glorious Woodlands will make sure that woodland creation and management for biodiversity will be considered in relation to the wider environment. This includes the roles of forest habitats and open habitats in ecological connectivity. Linking habitats like hedgerows and uncultivated field margins can create important coverage for wildlife and allow wildlife to move from one ecosystem to the next.
Glorious Woodlands renovation focusses on allowing natural ecological processes to operate and mimicking them with silvicultural systems to benefit biodiversity – silviculture is the care and cultivation of woodlands. This is in comparison to arboriculture which is the care and cultivation of individual trees. Some of the ecological processes that the Forestry Commission identify as shaping the natural forest ecosystems include: vegetation succession, natural regeneration, windthrow, flooding, drought and the activities of herbivores. In practice, some intervention is necessary such as managing deer and removing invasive species.
Your woodland can become home to the rich variety of life forms in British countryside.
Woodlands provide habitats for a large array of plants and animals, some of which are rare or threatened. Your woodland, can contribute to the increase in biodiversity and sustainability of the wider landscape.
A diverse range of plant species in a woodland supports a variety of insects, birds and other fauna. Some tree species such as oak (Quercus), willow (Salix), birch (Betual) and hawthorn (Crataegus) are outstanding in supporting fauna. Tree bark also provides a habitat for epiphytes (non-parasitic plants that grow on other plants). The shady, humid atmosphere of a woodland creates sufficient moisture for epiphytes to survive. Examples of plants that grow as epiphytes are moss, liverwort, algae, fern and lichens.
Mosses are a primitive plant, which are often adapted to growing in woodlands.
Moss cells must be within reach of a growing surface to obtain a water supply. Where water is rich in oxygen and minerals such as springs and upland streams, mosses flourish. Mosses grow on tree trunks, especially on the shady side where moisture accumulates. Moss also grows on rocks and exposed areas. They have a water-trapping ability which provides a substrate for seeds of other plants to germinate.
Priority habitats have the potential to provide for the richest and most varied components of biological diversity.
Priority species are those that are rare and at risk of extinction, threatened, or have special requirements.
Your woodland can become home to a wonderful array of wildlife.
Humidity in lush foliage and damp leaf mulch benefits invertebrates. Having a layered canopy with gaps providing dappled shade is the best way to maintain humidity. A completely closed canopy will keep temperatures too low so it’s important to have gaps which allow the sunlight in.
Wet areas within your woodland are particularly important habitats for invertebrates. The sheltered margins that woodlands provide around wet features are essential for many species. Ponds and lakes are fantastic for wildlife in woodlands. Managing the vegetation around ponds or streams can create a diverse range of habitats. Shaded and unshaded water supports different specialist species. Glorious Woodlands can create a pond or a lake for you.
Your woodland's structure is determined by the ages and species of trees and shrubs and the pattern of open space and other woodland features.
Glorious Woodlands will design your woodland with it’s long term structure in mind. For example, the character of the canopy, different vegetation layers and the intensity of light reaching the forest floor. Having a varied tree and shrub selection is beneficial for biodiversity. Native trees and shrubs support higher species diversity. Non-native forests can also provide significant biodiversity benefits, particularly as they mature, develop herb and shrub layers and are colonised by invertebrates, fungi and lichens. Non-native conifers can provide vital seed crops for small mammals such as red squirrels and birds. Especially in this time of global warming, non-native species are important to consider for the healthy long-term future of your woodland.
The open, scrub and edge habitats within or adjacent to woodlands are especially important for biodiversity.
Open areas such as utility wayleaves, roads and rides add to open habitats. If these habitats can be linked together and the forest edges are managed as part of this network, their value is greatly increased. Calling on the Forestry Commission guidelines, Glorious Woodlands will design forest edges that grade into open ground and contain mixtures of native trees and shrubs because they are far more beneficial to biodiversity than abrupt edges.
Woodland edges are important for biodiversity, so Glorious Woodlands tend to make them as long as possible!
Glorious Woodlands will achieve this by making curves and scallops. Scallops are curved areas on the edges of rides. This wider open area allows more sunlight to reach the ride and edges. Scallops also enhance structural diversity and create bigger areas of shelter. The Royal Forestry Society recommend that scallops are between 10 and 20 metres deep and 30 to 50 metres long. As these will be optimal for some butterflies but small scallops will still benefit wildlife. Glorious Woodlands will make the woodland edge gradient as gentle as possible on the external edges of your woodland. Generally buffer strips on the edge of a woodland need to be at least 5 metres wide, but the bigger the better.
The key to creating good rides or glades for biodiversity is to allow in as much sunlight as possible.
Sunlight makes rides and glades warm, so rides that run east to west are best. Glorious Woodlands will consider the prevailing wind direction, in order to avoid creating a wind tunnel. The best rides for biodiversity are at least 1.5 times wider than the height of surrounding mature trees as this will allow sunlight to reach the ground – though not all woodlands will be big enough for this. Even a glade that is between 0.5 and 2 hectares in size will benefit the greatest variety of species but even a clearing of 3 or 4 trees will start to benefit wildlife.
Well maintained bracken is a rich habitat for wildlife.
Bracken is often viewed as a problem in open areas and it is certainly undesirable for it to completely take over. However, bracken habitats can be very important for fritillary butterflies so you may want to consider managing it more sensitively, particularly if your wood is in a fritillary hotspot. As part of your woodland maintenance plan, Glorious Woodlands recommends cutting back bracken areas every 3 to 4 years in June and grassy areas more regularly helps to avoid these areas becoming too dominant. Bracken bruising is where rollers are pulled behind a tractor or quad bike to damage the stems, this is effective in reducing density. Is it best to do this in June and August. The Royal Forestry Society recommend removing bracken litter in autumn and winter by racking it up encourages violet growth. It is important to only carry out operations when conditions are warm so reptiles are active enough to move out the way. Care should be taken between March and August as bracken is used extensively by many species including ground-nesting birds.