It is clear that heterogeneous landscapes are of great benefit to the environment, able to support more stable and diverse populations of plants and animals. This ideal landscape is in stark contrast to the reality of large areas of monoculture that can still be found in modern forestry and agriculture today. The management plan at Brant River Wood has been geared towards diversifying the existing plantation in order to create a series of habitat fragments and to cause events designed to produce a more dynamic woodland with especially pronounced edge effects.
For example, advantage is being taken of the ecocline between wetland found near the Brant River and the higher ground to the east. The wetland is now being managed as poplar and willow coppice whilst the adjoining woodland is being selectively thinned to allow the succession of native trees and to allow full development of the understorey. Where these two zones meet, everything from standard trees, shrubs, climbers, grasses, herbaceous plants as well as mature canopy are all fully represented. This was not the case just a few years ago when the area was covered with dense, poor quality Poplar with little economic or environmental benefit. The tension between these two different ecosystems is expected to enable a wide variety of edge species to thrive here.
Over the next few years, as the coppice regrows, it is hoped that it will provide dense cover for many species of invertebrates, small mammals and woodland birds.
Ecotone between the wetland near the River (left) and rest of the woodland
In order to maintain and improve the potential of these areas, an ongoing plan is being developed to ensure the woodland continues to offer a wide variety of habitats. As a priority, the cycle of coppicing will continue whilst additional areas of coppice will be created by new plantings of Hazel and by converting existing areas of poor quality woodland. The mature woodland will continue to be thinned, primarily by removing hybrid poplar, whilst native plant species will be introduced where appropriate to further enrich habitat. Additionally, periodic mowing will be carried out to keep scrub and invasive plants at bay thereby allowing a thriving community of grasses and herbaceous plants to emerge.
In the next post, a management plan for the forest floor, herbaceous layer and understorey will be detailed.