Woodlands form an important part of our ecosystem. This article explains why forests should be managed and provides guidance on a range of practical and valuable interventions to ensure the highest possible biodiversity.
The UK is desperately short of forests. Over the 7,000 years from the Mesolithic to the Neolithic, tree types and densities fluctuated, but they always formed a fundamental part of ecosystems. Humans have been cutting down and removing trees since the beginning of agriculture in the late Neolithic to early Bronze Age. It has also changed the chemical structure of the soil during the same period. Britain currently has only about 13% forest and forest cover, of which 70% is plantations and includes half of the alien conifers. Forest coverage is the lowest in Europe, from 25% he to 70% in other countries.
Old growth forests support the broadest range of species of any other habitat in the UK. Of course, there is no ‘one type of forest’ and no ‘one management strategy’ that applies to all forests. Especially when the primary objective is to manage habitats to maximize biodiversity. However, forests provide the greatest benefit to wildlife when they are part of a more diverse habitat structure. There is no optimal habitat in complete isolation. They offer the most variety when they mix or merge from one to another without some clear boundaries between them. Managing forests in harmony with their surroundings may be the best approach. Management strategies should be chosen that meet the benefits of the timber ecosystem and its management objectives. Make no mistake, this is a compromise.
When I started my business nearly 30 years ago, most of the advice I received from experts was based on managing forests for commercial gain. Little consideration was given to managing conservation and biodiversity as priorities. I was only interested in the latter, so I had to build my own ideas based on limited advice and create my own business plan. To be clear, I am not saying that forests should not be managed for commercial value. I am only suggesting some forest areas that should be managed, where possible, with an emphasis on conservation and biodiversity as priorities.
This article is based on my own research, training, learning, experimentation, and experience gained in managing our own forests, to define the objectives necessary to own or manage forests, and to assess their structure. and is intended to provide basic guidance in planning. Continuous management with a focus on conservation and biodiversity. However, it should be mentioned that much is still being learned about the forest environment, especially the important symbiotic interactions between organisms. Although the importance of advice on forest management strategies is shifting, there is still considerable debate and entrenched views.
Why we need forest management
If the purpose of a forest is to provide a wildlife paradise, then it is perfectly reasonable to ask why should it be managed. There may be situations where this is the case, and mature woodland areas that have reached a stable form, such as the temperate oak rainforest of northwest Wales, can be built into their own devices. It’s best to let it go and only have surveillance and protection from aliens… invasive species. However, such an attitude is unlikely to achieve the highest biodiversity in most woodlands.
What does ‘natural’ mean in the UK?
The wildlife we see today is almost identical to what was seen in late Mesolithic Britain (12-6000 years ago). Except for notable losses such as bears, lynx and wolves. Introducing animals such as rabbits and of course gray squirrels. The plants brought to Britain by early farmers and later collectors have not evolved or changed.
When we talk about farmland birds, we really mean birds that no longer have a native habitat and have adapted to life on farmland. It has evolved over millions of years. After the last ice age, Doggerbank was flooded and returned to Britain between 12,000 and 8,000 years ago, before Britain became an island. Could not. Evolutionarily, there is no time. Therefore, the “natural” landscape for nearly all wildlife is pre-farmed. Recreating it would require creating a Mesolithic landscape across much of Britain, which we cannot. Land is needed for agriculture and human habitation and leisure. There is considerable debate and disagreement about how much forest cover there was in Britain, but what cannot be disputed is the fact that, apart from wetlands and high peaks, forest dominated in different ways at different times. That’s what I was doing.
In the Mesolithic, structural extent within forests would have been created by wind, storms, and fire, and maintained by grazing herds. Developed and viewed animals would have maintained it for some time. Eventually, young trees would grow and fill the gaps again. , whose borders were shrub and grassy meadows, and in the valleys and lowlands were reed marshes. Measured on our timescale, the ecosystem would have appeared static, but over longer periods of time it would have been constantly changing.
Limitation of habitat generation
Recreating such an environment is not trivial. Small habitats have no barriers to movement and cannot support roaming swarms of browsers. Nor do they have large predators to control their numbers. We have large projects underway, such as Alladale Nature Reserve in North Scotland and Knepp Estate in West Sussex, but the scale of these operations far exceeds the resources of most of us. Left alone, most of the land will revert to scrub, then culminate in some type of dense woodland vegetation in most parts of the UK. After the last ice age, secondary succession (inheritance of plant material) led to the development of rugged grasslands, then shrubs, early pioneer forest species, mature forests, and finally primary forests. . Therefore, if there is relatively little land available and we want to mimic pre-agricultural landscapes to provide maximum biodiversity in a time frame measured in years rather than hundreds or thousands of years, it should be managed and change controlled.
There are considerable environmental, cultural and political pressures to increase forest cover in the UK. But this is not as easy as planting trees in wasteland or farmland. It takes hundreds of years for a forest ecosystem to fully develop, and it takes a long time for a ‘new’ forest to become fully established, especially at the very important fungal mycelium and mycorrhizal network level. Managing, protecting and enhancing the value of depleted forests is a top priority. Second, the best strategy for increasing forest cover is to expand existing sites and identify and replant old sites. The identification of “Plantations” (PAWS) illustrates the value of this process. This is not to say that new forests should not be planted, but that the best results are likely to be achieved by expanding existing forests.
Woodlands have immense commercial, social and environmental value. The details of how the forest is managed depend on the priority of these three uses. Some forests are dedicated to one use, while others must be managed by him at different rates to meet all three. Although compromises are necessary when forests need to be used for different purposes, it is possible to balance forest management to meet all three. Clearly, the larger the timber, the easier it is to employ different management strategies in different areas.
Commercial uses range from mainstream timber production to small-scale coppice craft material extraction. It may include timber produced purely for fuel and straight-grained tall hardwoods for buildings and traditional carpentry. Management strategies for different commercial uses vary, and some are well suited to support conservation. Even-aged plantations with little undergrowth and tall, well-spaced trees may be optimal for timber production, but have little biodiversity. An example of a compromise is provided by continuous cover forestry groups that promote methods of afforestation aimed at managing forests for timber extraction and conservation. A link to the group can be found in Resources, but the basic concept of “shelterwood” will be explained later.
Social value and amenity value
Social and amenity use encompasses everything from granting public access for walks in the woods, to formal courses and training on various themes, and even recreational uses such as cycling and paintball. We’ve got you covered! It might also include the relatively new-recognized forestry schools, wellbeing and mindfulness practices. It is important to recognize that frequent human use undermines the value of forests for conservation and biodiversity. How much depends on the management process.
Forests managed for environmental value may also need to involve compromises. For example, forest structures that are optimal for carbon sequestration may not be optimal for supporting a wide range of invertebrate species. As mentioned earlier, forests are most valuable for biodiversity when they are in and connected to a wide range of supporting habitats. For example, edges of woodlands surrounded by shrubs and meadows provide good feeding conditions for many forest-nesting bird species. Removing areas of trees to create grasslands and shrubs usually provides greater biodiversity at the expense of canopy cover.
It was said that in order for the forest to survive, it had to pay for itself. I would argue that with the increasing focus on the environment, conservation and biodiversity, forests should be seen as ‘paying for themselves’ just by being there!
part 2 – Opportunity assessment Next!
Andy Hughes He spent part of his childhood in North Africa, roaming and exploring the wild bushlands freely. bottom. During his teenage years, Andy often spent time alone, walking in the hills of England or backpacking. In later years he trekked through tropical jungles, African deserts and north of the Arctic Circle.
He started working on a farm, but continued his studies to “learn” engineering part-time. Since 1994 Andy has lived in central Wales, a small system where he runs an engineering company and manages native hardwood forests and other habitats for conservation.
He is a founding member of the Montgomeryshire Habitat Management Group.