Impact of management on existing native woodland

Evidence of singled coppice, Glen Beasdale Atlantic oakwoodAge structure of Atlantic oakwoods

This study, undertaken as part of the LIFE ’97 Atlantic oakwoods project, assessed the recent history of five upland oakwoods, comparing age histograms (derived from cores) with field evidence.

Two of the stands showed clear signs of intensive use for production of charcoal and tanbark. A range of past management activities appeared to operate in the other woods, from wood pasture to clearfelling followed by natural regeneration.

The following report presents results and summarises the history of Scottish and Welsh Atlantic oakwoods:

Analysis of age structure in Atlantic oakwoods – implications for future woodland management (PDF-816K)

Impacts of thinning in Atlantic oakwoods

There has been renewed interest in recent years in the utilisation of timber from these woodlands, many of which are Special Areas of Conservation (SAC). George Peterken and Rick Worrell have looked at the potential for promoting rural development whilst maintaining Favourable Conservation Status. Their report suggests several management models:

Conservation management of the Sunart Oak Woodland Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and the potential for supporting rural development (PDF-1396K)

The long-rotation High Forest Model is appropriate for stands of mature oak coppice.

Andy Acton recording patch size of a selected epiphytic lichen
Photo by Joe Hope

Atlantic woods within the British Isles are  internationally recognised for their lower plant interest. There is no evidence to show what the impact of tree felling is on species survival and abundance. Thinning trials have been set up to assess this.

Current thinning treatments are:

  • Control, no thinning
  • Removal of 10% of standing basal area
  • Removal of 25% of standing basal area.

Detailed baseline studies have been undertaken to record epiphytic lichen communities, patch size of selected lichen thali and saxicolous bryophytes. Response to thinning will be assessed.

Initial surveys of lower plants, potential veteran trees and potential timber trees were synthesised to provide guidance for the selection of stands and trees when thinning Atlantic woods. This work was part funded by LIFE Nature under the Core Sites for a Forest Habitat Network project and guidance has been published by Highland Birchwoods:

Thinning in Atlantic oakwoods PDFThinning in Atlantic oakwoods (PDF-1570K)

Stand dynamics in Tilio Acerion woodlands

LIFE Nature commissioned research into dynamics of woodlands in the Clyde Valley and the consequences of management being undertaken through the Core Sites for a Forest Habitat Network project.

Assessments were made of tree regeneration and vegetation in relation to canopy conditions. However, it became apparent, as the study progressed, that a major influencing factor over the existing condition of the Clyde Valley woods and their response to management, was the historic use and management of each site.

A desk based study (part funded by SNH and LIFE Nature) was undertaken by Stirling University’s AHRC Centre for Environmental History to assess mapped and documentary evidence and to summarise the history of the woods concerned in this project. The report completed by Forest Research, draws from the woodland history report and makes recommendations for management in the light of previous woodland uses and current conditions.

Jock’s Gill

Jock's Gill

This area was part of a formal landscape in 1816 (a mature beech tree can just be seen in the background which dates back to this period). It was planted with mixed broadleaves and conifers between 1816 and 1858, felled in 1933 and subsequently regenerated.

The inset shows an axle from a tram cart – evidence of a 19th century  brick works located nearby, now within woodland.