As in other parts of the UK, the populations and ranges of a significant number of Welsh woodland bird species are in decline. Although the precise causes are not fully understood, research is indicating that changes in woodland management are a significant factor; the need for management based on sound guidance is pressing.
The need for sustainable management of the earth’s resources, including timber, is recognised by several global treaties, eg the Rio Convention on Biological Diversity of 1992, the MCPFE 1993 Helsinki principles for sustainable forest management, and the UK Forest Partnership for Action at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development. The UK Government’s response to the Rio Convention produced the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UKBAP), and the Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act 2006 published a revised list of the Species and Habitats of Principal Importance for the Conservation of Biological Diversity in Wales1. In 2001, the National Assembly for Wales published Woodlands for Wales, their strategy for trees and woodlands in Wales, presenting a vision for forestry and woodland policy over the next 50 years, in which one of the priorities for action is ‘to conserve and enhance the biodiversity of our woodlands’. The new Wales Strategy for Woodlands and Trees is currently under revision, due for publication in 2009.
Woodland management cannot influence some of the potential causes of woodland bird declines. The increasingly widespread effects of atmospheric pollution are considered to be reducing invertebrate biomass (which in turn can limit foraging opportunities), and the disrupted
1 Referred to in this guide as Principal Biodiversity Species.
synchronicity of foliage development and nesting dates in several species is thought to be due to climate change, which may also affect conditions on migration and wintering grounds.
Ongoing research is identifying the important aspects of woodland management in providing requirements for birds and other wildlife and this guide incorporates the latest information available.
Aim of the guide
This guide deals with woodland bird species that are considered priorities for conservation in Wales and the management issues that relate to them. It includes those woodland birds identified in the list of Principal Biodiversity Species in Wales under Section 42 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act 2006, and other species of conservation importance, eg rare breeding species. The woodland management methods discussed will also benefit a much wider range of woodland birds, and other woodland biodiversity, by improving the structural complexity of woodland. In addition, guidance is also given on legal aspects relating to protected species likely to be influenced by woodland management.
This guide is aimed at providing the woodland manager with information relating to the methods of managing their woodland (broadleaved, mixed or coniferous) for priority bird species in Wales, which will also enhance their woodlands for other biodiversity. It signposts other sources of information that may be useful relating to other aspects of woodland management, eg woodland grant requirements, Forestry Commission guidance, and it should always be used in conjunction with these.
The guide should not be considered a definitive guide on the subject; ongoing research will add new information on drivers of declines and woodland management solutions.