Modern forest design planning has to take account of multiple environmental, economic and social uses.
To further understand the impact of forest design planning on biodiversity, there is a need to examine changes to the spatial and temporal distribution of particularly important habitats, such as open and mature forest, through the forest planning process. Important elements of UK biodiversity are often associated with these open (e.g. black grouse, small pearl-bordered fritillary) and mature conifer habitats (e.g. red squirrel).
Within Clocaenog Forest, a 5500 hectare conifer plantation in north Wales, we are starting to examine the planned spatial and temporal changes in open and mature conifer habitats and their potential impact on key species. Many forests are now planning change to meet current and future objectives e.g. continuous cover silviculture. A high level of detail in terms of land cover; coupled with new GIS techniques for modelling future forests, is allowing us to explore these patterns at an increasingly fine spatial (Figure 1) and temporal (Figure 2) resolutions.
The impacts of changes on the small pearl bordered fritillary (Boloria selene, a butterfly listed as a Species of Conservation Concern) are currently being surveyed, so we can construct and test spatially explicit population models.
Future forests software represents the age structure of subcompartments (individual planting units) of Clocaenog Forest (5500ha) under various management scenarios. In this scenario, mature conifer and open habitats are maximised.
Knowing the area of each habitat type each year over the next 30 years allow us to construct population models for the rare species there. Under current scenarios, open areas will remain relatively constant, whereas mature habitat will increase by around 50 percent by 2030.