Permanent open spaces in the forest are homes to many animals and plants that could not live in a forest of wall-to-wall trees. These species need open ground vegetation and woodland edges.
A further group of species is well adapted to the early successional habitats that develop when patches of forest are cleared. These areas mostly get restocked with the next generation of trees so are only temporarily open. However, as older restocks become occupied by trees, newly felled areas become available for early successional communities to colonise. Thus there is a shifting network of temporary open ground in the forest that adds to its overall biodiversity.
Our research is aimed at finding out how the habitat value of the temporary open ground network is affected by different forms of forest management, such as harvesting methods and replanting options.
Research into the factors affecting vegetation development in plantation restocks and the consequences for black grouse conservation is the subject of a PhD studentship funded and steered by a partnership of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Forest Research, the University of Stirling and Scottish Natural Heritage.
PhD student Jenny Owen is working at field sites in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, investigating how different timber extraction and ground preparation methods affect the quality of restocks as black grouse habitats. Using a set of restock sites of different ages, she is focussing on the composition and structure of the vegetation and the abundance of invertebrates suitable as food for newly hatched black grouse chicks.
We hope to learn how to provide better habitats for black grouse on forest restocks by using harvesting and restocking methods that lead to the development of the kinds of vegetation they like with ample food for their young.
For further information about this work please contact Russell Anderson.