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Managing woodland for birds

conservation of saproxlyic invertebrates in Britain. English Nature Science series No.7.

General management recommendations

Lonsdale D (2000) Hazards From Trees – A General Guide. Forestry Commission, Edinburgh.

The woodland edge

In many woodland situations throughout Wales, the woodland edge is clearly demarcated by a sudden transition from the woodland to adjacent land. Improving the structural diversity in the woodland edge zone can influence the woodland humidity, reduce the impacts of adjacent land use and provide structural diversity to benefit a range of birds.

Species such as turtle dove and bullfinch could thrive where a seed and invertebrate-rich buffer exists between the woodland edge (where they prefer to nest) and adjacent land. In addition, the impact of neighbouring land use on the woodland would be reduced. Extensively managed agricultural land abutting the woodland edge will provide similar features for the birds as a buffer strip alongside intensively managed farmland can. scrub that is allowed to develop from the woodland edge among rough grass can be valuable as

  • Develop a sinuous, ‘diffuse’, edge with a varied structure by thinning the woodland edge and encouraging scrub and grass growth (see rides, glades and open spaces). It may be necessary to reduce or exclude grazing.

  • Create buffer strips to provide invertebrate and seed-rich grassland, and to buffer trees from potentially damaging land use, eg ploughing close to tree roots.

  • Encourage a dense shrub structure at the edge to reduce wind penetration, and maintain humidity and damp conditions within the woodland.

  • In commercial conifer plantations, management practice tends to lead to an abrupt change in woodland edge structure. A soft edge provides resources for several species, eg black grouse.

  • There is a need to consider stability if removing hard edges from mature crops. Edge-management in commercial crops needs to be carefully located when removing trees in bulk or by thinning. Equally planting of shrub species needs to be carefully considered to avoid impacts on the crop.

  • Identify objectives of woodland edge management with reference to Part 3 and Table 16.

nesting and foraging habitat for those birds that use the scrub-grassland interface, eg

Agri-environment schemes can provide

grasshopper warbler.

buffer strips through various options

Table 16 Management for different woodland edge characteristics.

Desired habitat structure Scrub-free woodland edge

Low proportion of scrub in woodland edge

Maintain high to total scrub cover

Management suggestions Mow grassland periodically to maintain open, scrub-free structure

  • Avoid cutting large patches at once to ensure areas of tall and cut grass are represented throughout

  • Consider scraping turf to bare ground to slow succession and provide invertebrate habitat

  • Mow retained grassland areas as above

  • Allow scrub to develop in other areas

  • Cut or grub out small patches cyclically on, for example, a 10–15-year rotation

  • Consider allowing scrub to develop into areas of grassland, while removing mature scrub back to grassland to maintain the balance – successional scrub is thought to be important for invertebrates and some bird species

  • Allow scrub to develop

  • Implement cyclical coppicing on, for example, a 10–15-year cycle – small patches for structural diversity

  • Consider grubbing out to slow the rate of recolonisation


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