Management and restoration of priority open habitats


Cattle exclosure on open ground in Minard Forest, used as an ungrazed control to show the effects of grazing on the surrounding upland flush habitat

Forests and woodlands increasingly contain open space as woods are restructured and former open habitats are restored. They can provide valuable habitats for plants and animals but under the low levels of grazing pressure in many woods, some types tend to degrade. Often these types need to be managed to reap the greatest benefit in terms of providing good quality habitats for a range of species. This programme contains research to support management of existing open habitats and restoration of former priority habitats altered by afforestation.

The main themes of the programme are:

Research objectives

  • To provide guidance on managing open habitats for biodiversity
  • To develop our understanding of how and where best to restore open habitats altered by afforestation.

Funders and partners

This research is mainly funded by the Forestry Commission Management and restoration of priority open habitats programme.

Scottish Natural Heritage logo
The monitoring of the trial of cattle grazing to improve black grouse habitats at Minard is jointly funded by Scottish Natural Heritage.

RSPB logo University of Stirling logo Scottish Natural Heritage logo
The PhD studentship on determinants of field layer vegetation in plantation restocks and the consequences for black grouse conservation is jointly funded by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, University of Stirling and Scottish Natural Heritage.

Forestry Commission policy

The government’s approach to sustainable forestry is set out in the UK Forestry Standard. The standard requires that European and UK priority habitats in and around forests are conserved or enhanced and that important but previously disturbed semi-natural habitats are restored, where practicable. This research programme supports forest and woodland owners and managers in meeting these requirements.

Forest Research is contributing to the development of government policy on restoration of open habitats from woods and forests in England and on control of woodland removal in Scotland.


Open ground in upland forests: a review of its potential as wildlife habitat and appropriate management methods (PDF-517K). By Russell Anderson, 2003.

Deforesting and restoring peat bogs – a review. By Russell Anderson, 2001. Forestry Commission Technical Paper 32.

Managing rides, roadsides and edge habitats in lowland forests. By Richard Ferris and Clive Carter, 2000. Forestry Commission Bulletin 123.


This programme began in 2007 and is progressing under a five-year plan next due for review in 2009.


Russell Anderson