A woodland is a habitat where trees are the dominant plant form. The individual tree canopies generally overlap and interlink, often forming a more or less continuous canopy which shades the ground to varying degrees.
Depending on the amount of light reaching the ground through the tree canopy, there will be a great variety of other plants. These will include mosses, ferns and lichens, as well as small flowering herbs, grasses and shrubs. The more different kinds of plants there are, the greater the animal diversity will be in the woodland. This will range from a variety of herbivores feeding on the different plants, to the carnivores which they provide food for. Plenty of rotting wood and decaying leaf litter offer an alternative food source for a staggering variety of invertebrates. The sheer quantity of dead organic material present means that a wealth of decomposing organisms, such as fungi and bacteria also occur in woods.
The specific plants and animals to be found in a woodland depend very much on the type of woodland involved. There are a great many different types of woodland. They are generally identified by the type and/or mix of dominant trees making up the main canopy of the woodland. Woodlands can be divided into two main types, coniferous and broadleaf and are composed of a variety of plants of differing heights. This gives a woodland a distinct vertical structure.
Types of Broadleaf Woodland are:
- Oak (Quercus)
- Beech (Fagus Sylvatica)
- Silver Birch (Betula Pendula)
- Ash (Fraxinus Excelsior)
- Alder / Willow (Alnus Glutinosa / Salix)
Types of Coniferous Woodland are:
- Scots Pine (Pinus Slyvestris)
- Yew (Taxus)
Ancient woodlands in Britain are those which have been continuously wooded for a minimum of three to four hundred years, (although not necessarily with the same type of tree cover). They are frequently very diverse and will often also contain rare or unusual species. They may also have historical and archaeological significance, because of the low level of physical disturbance. Ancient woodlands are habitats which can have enormous biodiversity.
They may contain much of the same biodiversity present in more recent woodlands. However, the great age of many of the trees and their resultant large size, thick, cracked, fissured bark and rot-holes, all provide a great many additional microhabitats for other species. The sheer age of the habitat itself and the absence of major physical disturbance also gives rise to a continuum of conditions which favour a variety of rarer species.
Woodlands are actively managed for a number of reasons. These include maximizing the yield of economically important products such as timber and game, as well as for conservation and biodiversity. Recreational access is also becoming increasingly important.
A woodland may be managed for one or more of these reasons. Where woodlands are multipurpose, conflicting management options can often arise. Native woodlands in Britain were traditionally managed to provide a continuous source of wood for firewood and structural materials, such as those used for hurdle making. This was done by coppicing trees within a woodland in rotation. Coppicing makes use of the natural self-regenerating power of trees. The tree is cut close to ground level for its timber, with the remaining base (stool) left to regenerate naturally. Regeneration takes the form of multiple shoots, so that coppiced trees have a distinct growth form with several similar sized trunks. Animal diversity is to a great degree controlled by plant diversity. This is because the plants generally provide the architecture and structure of a habitat, as well as being the basis of food chains. Plant diversity in woodlands can be encouraged by making sure there are a variety of light levels within a woodland from deep shade to open glades. Planting a variety of native trees will also enhance animal diversity because native trees support many more invertebrate species. Wildlife conservation and environmental protection should concern us all. Where appropriate, New Horizon Horticultural services can help you to manage your woodland to your specific requirements, we can create natural habitats encouraging flora and fauna to thrive. Projects range from the thinning out of dense overgrown woodlands, the underplanting of existing woodlands with poor regeneration, to the creation of new plantations. We specialise in providing a full woodland maintenance plan which caters to your requirements. A site evaluation would be carried out, followed by the development of an annual management plan and all work would be carried out according to the agreed maintenance program by ourselves.