Woodland management, there is a common misconception that woodlands in Britain are wild places that can look after themselves. In a basic sense, they find an equilibrium where renewal and death are in perfect balance. Sadly, there a little to no “wild woods” left in Britain. Generations of exploitation and expansion has left us with the fractured landscape we have today. Most of the smaller areas of woodland, which are deemed to be unprofitable for timber production are left to go “wild” with the misguided intention that it would in some way benefit the local wildlife. Overall, the broadleaf woodlands across Britain have seen a decline in both fauna and flora diversity.
Benefits to managed woodlands?
Below are a few benefits to woodland management.
Timber and other wood products hold a monetary value. Values vary, from low-value chip and pulp from conifers or hardwoods for firewood, to graded softwood for engineering and structural use in buildings, and quality hardwoods for furniture making
Healthy woodland provides multiple environmental benefits. These range from their ability to sequester and store carbon, reduce the risk of flooding by slowing the passage of water down above and below ground, and habitat creation for a wide range of wildlife.
Unmanaged woodlands are often dark and unpleasant places to visit. Studies have shown that a healthy and productive woodland has a profound impact on people’s mental health. Furthermore, additional benefits in the form of local tourism attractions benefit the local community and open the window for further management and conservation.
What aspects need to be managed?
Ground flora, bushes, and trees all require enough light for germination and continued healthy growth. Ensuring enough light reaches the lower canopy and the floor of your woodland will allow the process of regeneration and growth to begin. In turn, this provides a wider range of food sources and habitats for woodland fauna.
Age, size, & Species
Woodlands where trees are all the same age, size, and shape offer a limited range of habitats and are less resilient than well-managed woodlands. Diversity of age, size, and shape within a woodland can provide protection against extreme events (e.g. outbreak of a pest), openings in the canopy and along rides provide light, promoting biodiversity, while veteran trees can be managed sensitively by allowing them space to thrive. Diversifying the range of species and importantly genetic diversity too may help ensure that habitats valuable to society and wildlife can be provided in the future.
Management of pests
Deer are natural herbivores at home in our woodlands and are lovely to see. However, the introduction of non-native species (e.g. muntjac), combined with a reduction in hunting, has resulted in deer numbers that are now recognized by conservation organizations as severely impacting woodland biodiversity.