Lowland native woodlands

Lowland oak wood with bluebellsSummary

This research programme is investigating a variety of subjects related to the management of broadleaved woodland in the lowland areas of Great Britain.  Subjects being studied include:

  • Coppice woodlands
  • Natural regeneration of trees and shrubs
  • Creation of new native woodlands
  • Restoration of plantations on ancient woodland sites (PAWS).

Research objectives

The silviculture and ecology of broadleaved trees and woodlands are being studied using a combination of detailed scientific experiments, and practical forestry studies, to improve our understanding of the processes involved in the successful creation, restoration and management of lowland broadleaved woodlands.  The information gathered will be used to improve the quality of advice available and the practical management of woodlands.

Funders and partners

Forestry Commission logo
This work forms part of the Ecosystems and Biodiversity research programme which is funded by the Forestry Commission.

Why study lowland native woodlands?

Lowland native woodlands are important habitats within the British countryside; many are Ancient Semi-Natural Woodlands or occur on Ancient Woodland Sites and they often contain valuable components of the flora and fauna that cannot survive elsewhere. Many are covered by Woodland Habitat Action Plans (HAPs) which indicate that the area of such woodland should expand by about 10% over the next 10 to 15 years, with a similar amount of Plantations on Ancient Woodlands Sites (PAWS) being restored at the same time.

The successful implementation of the HAPs will require a more detailed knowledge of the processes involved in woodland creation, restoration, improvement and management. It is also hoped that better management will improve the condition of existing woodland.

There is considerable interest amongst woodland managers in the use of more natural processes not only to create new woodlands but also to develop new methods for uneven-aged and continuous cover silvicultural systems to manage existing woodlands. However these processes, which are less predictable than traditional British silviculture that is based on extensive even-aged planting, require different skills and knowledge.

The subject is large and the following broad topics are recognised:

  • Natural regeneration - the process by which trees and woodlands are established from seeds that are produced and germinate in situ.
  • Coppice - was the traditional form of silviculture practised in many woodlands in lowland Britain and the estimated area of both simple coppice, and coppice with standards, has been declining for at least a century.  However, during recent years there has been a revival of interest in this form of management.
  • New native woodlands - are often the desired objective of schemes to create new woodlands, but methods of establishment are not always predictable.
  • Restoration of PAWS - is an important procedure for the overall improvement of woodland biodiversity and is currently of great interest to woodland managers.

A variety of publications describe these studies.


This programme evolved from several silviculture and seed research projects:

  • Restocking of broadleaved woodlands by natural regeneration
  • Colonisation of abandoned land
  • Management of coppice
  • Demonstration / experiments in the National Forest.

The programme began in 1997 and is reviewed at approximately 5-year intervals.


Dr Ralph Harmer