Ancient Woodland Restoration
Non native trees and Ancient Woodland Restoration
Many tree species commonly seen growing in our Celtic Rainforests are not considered native to these particular habitats. This includes all commercial conifer species, in addition to some deciduous trees such as sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus)and beech (Fagus sylvatica). Essentially, this means that without the intervention of humans, it is unlikely these species would have been found naturally growing in these woodlands. Their presence will primarily have beenas a result of deliberate introduction i.e. for the purposes of timber production or for aesthetic purposes, but in some instances they will have been introduced accidentally and are now spreading of their own accord.
Many non-native tree species have an important role to play in modern day forestry, particularly in the commercial forestry sector. However, in the context of the Celtic Rainforests they often have a detrimental effect on the ecology of these sensitive woodland habitats. Evidence shows that even on sites where non-nativetree species dominate, valuable fragments of ancient woodland flora, old broadleaved trees, and more natural forest soils survive, and it is importantto protect these from threats; mostly excessive shading, or conversely too much light or other risk factors such as over grazing and browsing.
Careful and gradual restoration management can secure and enhance the remnants of the original ancient woodland, moving it towards a revitalised, more natural state and slowly transforming it back into precious Celtic Rainforest habitat. At the same time, these processes can often have added benefits for woodland owners including the production of timber and wood fuel during the transformation stage and a range of wider long-term benefits such as the protection of soils, the provision of durable shelter forgrazing animals, and improved water quality.
Assessing the site to identify key features and current threats to the woodland will create a restoration plan to help owners and managers prioritise work. The recommendations can then feed into a long-term management plan, with on going monitoring and assessment of threats guiding owners’ future management. Urgent targeted action may be required to halt further decline of important features. Once these features such as notable trees are in a more robust condition, long term improvements to the woodland canopy can be implemented. These should involve a gradual move towards more native species through interventions which also account for the owners’ specific objectives and other site specific constraints. Woodland operations on sensitive Celtic Rainforest sites can follow standard woodland management practice, however all management must ensure that valuable woodland features are effectively protected. Clear felling on important woodland sites should be a last resort, with suitable assessment, recording and preparation works carried out to minimise the detrimental impact on remaining key features. By careful management, it is possible to incorporate owners’ aims such as sustainable timber and wood fuel production with an increase in biodiversity. Once the site is free from threats (such as over-shading or over-grazing) the woodland can move towards long-term sustainable management reflecting a more predominant Celtic Rainforest habitat.
The Woodland Trust have a wealth of advice in the following documents:
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