A to Z of Ecology W is for woodland

21 February 2015

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 February 21, 2015
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Woodland is one of the oldest habitats in Britain, at one time almost everywhere was covered by trees and while woods today are very different to the prehistoric forests they remain some of our most important sites for plants and animals.

Older woods are especially important, those over 400 years old are known as Ancient Woodland and support a range of plants and insects rarely found elsewhere but even newer areas of trees can support a lot of species.

Many protected animals are associated with woods including bats, badgers and dormice and links between woods like hedges and rows of trees are often important for animals moving around the landscape.

Generally speaking cutting down woodland for development is a bad idea and unlikely to get permission but the likelihood it will be allowed is greater for areas that are smaller, younger and more isolated – especially if new trees are planted to replace these areas. More often the edges of woods may be cut back to allow the widening of a road or railway. When considering any work affecting woods it is important to consider not just the wood itself but it’s importance in the wider area looking not just at wildlife but history, landscape and how local people use the wood.

If despite all this a development is going to fell trees this needs to be done sensitively. An ecologist should check for any trees suitable for bats to roost in and these should be left in place where possible. If a potential bat roost must be felled Levan Ecology can bring in specialist bat ecologists who are able to obtain any necessary licences and ensure the work is done legally without harm to bats.

Trees should also be felled in autumn and winter to avoid the risk of disturbing nesting birds, which are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. When felling in spring or summer cannot be avoided an ecologist will need to check the area immediately before felling to make sure there are no nests and if nests are found work will have to be delayed until the chicks have fledges and the nest is abandoned.

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