Natural regeneration of broadleaved trees and shrubs

Naturally regenerating beech woodland in the ChilternsNatural regeneration is the process by which woodlands are restocked by trees that develop from seeds that fall and germinate in situ.

For most of the last two or three centuries foresters have restocked and created woodlands by using transplants grown in nurseries.  Natural regeneration was rarely used until the late 1980’s when a combination of factors, including a desire to “do things more naturally”, and a change in the grant structure, lead to its use becoming more popular.  However, few woodland managers had any experience in the successful use of natural regeneration, which is much less predictable, than restocking using transplants.

Restocking by natural regeneration is often unsatisfactory, frequently for unknown reasons; which demonstrates the need for research to understand the processes occurring.  After a survey, which tried to define the state of naturally regenerating woodlands, studies of the following topics were begun:

  • Storm damage to woodlands in southeast England was extensive on the night of 16 October 1987 and a survey to investigate restocking by natural regeneration has recently been completed.
  • Development of the ground flora can be extensive following the forest operations carried out to promote natural regeneration. The changes in the ground flora within both temporary and permanent plots have been observed at a variety of sites in order to investigate how they may influence the survival and growth of tree and shrub seedlings.
  • Seedling establishment of some species has been observed by following the growth and survival of tree species growing after silvicultural operations to promote natural regeneration.
  • Browsing damage by deer is a serious problem in most lowland woodlands, and it can retard or prevent satisfactory natural regeneration.  The influence of simulated browsing damage on seedling growth and survival has been studied.
  • Competition with other vegetation can inhibit the growth or cause the death of tree seedlings.  Nursery studies have investigated the competition between tree seedlings and grass.

The publications listed include some of the experiments in each topic.