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A number of studies have shown that in the UK managed woodlands increase in biodiversity value. Woodlands are not static entities that can be left without interference, they are changing environments and as trees grow larger; the nature of the habitat will change. Most woodland in the UK is composed of blocks of similar age trees. As these trees grow they tend to reduce the light reaching the forest floor (this is particularly true if the woodland has been planted close together as a timber crop). Reducing the light at ground level will reduce the number of different species able to survive in the woodland, which will have the effect of reducing the habitat diversity. In a natural woodland this situation would hardly ever arise because of the uneven age structure of the woodland, and if it did, it would only be as one of a large number of different habitats in an area supporting a healthy ecosystem.
The nature of UK woodlands means that to retain the broad variety of habitats needed for our native wildlife, we often need to manage our woodlands to mimic and recreate the mosaic of habitats present in natural woodlands. Wildlife and Countryside Link, a body that brings together voluntary wildlife organisations such as Plant Life, Butterfly Conservation, Friends of the Earth and the Wildlife Trusts, has created a position statement that fully supports the Forestry Commissions Woodfuel Strategy (available to download here pdf 117kB.)
The overwhelming majority of scientific opinion indicates that changes are taking place in the global climate caused by the release of CO2 and other “greenhouse” gasses, this is likely to have a profound impact on the ecosystem and the growth of woodlands in the UK. The independent report Combating Climate Change – a role for UK forests has been commissioned by the FC, it shows that woodland provides an important buffering effect against climate change as well as providing resilience in affected ecosystems.
Managing woodlands has two effects:
The potential of woodlands to soak up CO2 from the atmosphere while providing a host of other benefits for society and biodiversity is becoming increasingly recognised, and many individuals and businesses wish to contribute to tree planting to help society soak up the carbon it emits. Understandably, before investing in such projects people want to know that schemes will actually deliver the carbon savings that they claim. The Forestry Commission has introduced a Woodland Carbon Code to define best practice for these schemes.
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