Resiler's picture

Our woods are at risk from "management plans"

We have what is probably the oldest woods in Kent, they were awarded village green status last summer to stop their destruction for housing. A few of us campained to alter this status and now we here on our estate have stewardship on the woods, the owners just have ownership but we have some authority.

The new owners who are our estate's housing association now want to "manage" the woods and want to coppice some chestnuts and fence some areas off. These wood have not been maintained for over 55 years and the biodiversity in such a small area is amazing. We have buzzards, deer, bats, woodpeckers, yellowhammers (at times) and bullhead, bream, carp, pike, perch and roach in the lake which is maintained on a voluntary basis by the fishermen and others. We feel that if man tries to manage nature then nature should watch out.

A biodiversity survey would help us and give weight to our arguments in this case, we want the woods as they are now, untouched, who knows what species are in our woods? Can anyone help us with a survey?

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Sarah West's picture

Surveys

To manage, or not to manage, that is an interesting question! In some situations, management is vital to ensure habitats remain of importance for biodiversity, for example, on the lowland heaths around York, we have many very rare beetles and other invertebrates which thrive in the conditions, however, naturally this would move towards birch woodland. This would provide a home for a totally different range of species, and the question then is, which sort of wildlife community do we want to support? Birch woodlands are much more prevalent than lowland heaths, so in the sites I know, birch trees are removed by humans to keep the habitat as heathland.
The other question raised is "what is natural"? Chestnuts (neither conker trees nor the sweet chestnuts) are not strictly "natural" as they have been introduced to the UK by humans, as have most deer you are likely to see...
Anyway, this hasn't really answered your question yet I'm afraid. What I'd suggest to you is that you should get in touch with your local natural history society (list can be found here http://www.nhm.ac.uk/research-curation/library/digital-library/nature-so... ) and invite them along, and you yourselves should keep a list of the species you see, and give this information to your local records centre. If you do this, then if people apply to build in the wood in the future, they will have to do a records search to see what species have been found there. You can find details of your local records centre at http://www.nbn-nfbr.org.uk/nfbr.php
A "record" at it's most basic is simply a list of what, where, when, and who saw a species, e.g.
Species: Robin (Erithacus rubecula)
Date: 2nd January 2012
Where: SE 23456789, York (grid reference and place)
Sighted by: Sarah West

You can use iSpot to help you identify things, and the field studies council http://www.field-studies-council.org/ do some great laminated guides.
Hope that's useful, Sarah

Sarah West
www.OPALexplorenature.org
OPAL Community Scientist
Yorkshire and Humber

miked's picture

Suspect you are very

Suspect you are very fortunate to have stewardship. The council are about to fell a number of trees near where I live due to 'health and safety' issues, the trees are fine its the effect of the roots on the pavement that is the issue. After much complaint the council are willing to replant some trees but it seems there are virtually none that are 'safe', ones with berries are totally unsafe as they cause a slip hazard, large trees are unsafe becuase they are big, ones with roots are unsafe because they may damage the pavement...

John Bratton's picture

I think you should welcome

I think you should welcome the suggestion of a management plan. The question is, who writes it and from what perspective? The plan would give you an opportunity to get your ideas down in writing so that coppicing can't be done at the whim of some council official. However, it sounds as though someone has already decided what should happen and now wants a written plan to justify their decision. The management planning process should start with a close examination of what is there and what aspects of the wood are most important, not an assumption that it should be coppiced, nor an assumption that the best idea is to 'leave it to nature'. The difficulty is finding someone who is both knowledgeable about woodlands and open-minded enough to take account of all views. I suspect we all have our favourite kinds of woodland and will steer management towards them when given the opportunity. I think a good guideline is to decide what aspects of the wood are uncommon, and what aspects are very old. These are likely to be the best habitats for unusual species and the most difficult to recreate if they get lost. Also bear in mind that left alone, it won't stay as it is.

Refugee's picture

Resiler has the right idea

Getting it looked as soon as practical independently is the best start. Then look at the way the plants grow over time and make sure that nothing is going to "take over" if it is not "managed" in some way. If land is left long enough after disturbance things like birch take over for about 70 years or so and eventually longer lived trees will find there way in such as Oak. Most of the invasive species would die out after a couple of hundred years with there seedlings "shaded out" by the longer lived trees most being native. There will be some point in time that most nature lovers want to maintain. If it were left it is likely to become a naturally seeded oak wood in 500 years time if that is what is eventually wanted. That is likely to be what takes over if it is not managed at all.
Shame about the Elm. The harsh weather might be our get out though. A hard winter can hold the disease back long enough for seed to be produced. Now that could be the light at the end of an Elm-less tunnel!
A great deal of thought needs to go into it in order to find the right balance.
A tough one!

Refugee