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Restoration of upland planted ancient woodland sites (PAWS)

PAWS are ancient woodland sites where the semi-natural woodland has been replaced with a plantation.

The sub-set of most relevance are those sites planted with non-native species since 1930.  A substantial proportion of  PAWS are either under restoration or likely to be restored over the next 20-30 years.

There is currently a lot of emphasis on the use of gradual methods to convert the plantation to a native woodland using alternative silvicultural systems to clearfell. Under this ecology of upland native woodlands programme and the Lowland Native Woodlands programme, we are undertaking a number of experiments to determine the appropriate approach for a range of former woodland types.

A number of lichen species from the Lobarion community growing on a remnant hazel in a plantation gap Spermodea lamellata  (old forest snail) found in the remnants within the plantation and in ancient semi-natural woodland control plots
Forest snail photo by Richard Marriott.

Assessing the impacts of clearfelling

An experiment has been established in Glencripesdale National Nature Reserve to assess the condition and diversity of ancient woodland communities in remnants within a PAWS. Remnants will be reassessed following clearfelling. The main groups under investigation are epiphytic lichens and molluscs.

This experiment is also looking at the rate of ground vegetation colonisation from under plantation gaps into areas currently dominated by needle litter. An assessment of the soil seedbank is being undertaken to show what role this plays in vegetation development following clearfelling.

Monitoring vegetation development on PAWS under restoration

Monitoring is useful in determining the need for management and the effects of management. During the restoration process, a number of activities will be necessary:

  • Where gradual methods are employed, the canopy can be manipulated to develop ancient woodland remnants and native tree regeneration, whilst controlling competitive vegetation. On all sites, browsing will need to be controlled and non-native regeneration removed.
  • Where natural regeneration is not wholly successful, some enrichment of native tree/shrub species may be desirable.

Simple qualitative methods are under development. The aim is to make monitoring straightforward and suited to delivering meaningful results that will have a direct impact on management. For further information contact Ralph Harmer.

Restoration guide

Restoration of native woodland on ancient woodland sites PDFRestoration of native woodland on ancient woodland sites (PDF-1975K)
This Forest Practice Guide provides advice on why, where and how to restore PAWS. A framework allows the assessment of restoration potential of  a site or ranking of a range of sites.

Restoration methods are discussed with advice given on  the protection of ancient woodland remnants and development of native woodland.

(Forestry Commission Practice Note 14 - also available in hard-copy).