Woodland Management

Image credit: Amy Lewis

Thousands of years of land management have dramatically reduced the UK’s woodlands. But The Wildlife Trusts manage many woodland nature reserves sympathetically, and encourage others to do so, too.

Woodland and trees can help wildlife and people adapt to climate change whether through providing shade in our cities or through storing water in the uplands to reduce flooding. Sustainably managed woodland is also a key source of renewable materials – wood, charcoal, fencing materials and more. There are so many reasons why woodlands are precious, and landowners are essential to help to conserve them.

Rhododendron and cherry laurel control - Kent Wildlife Trust

Species of plants that have been introduced to the British Isles can, if left unchecked, can become very invasive and result in a signficant loss of biodiversity.

Rhododendrons are evergreen shrubs which were introduced in the 18th century. Many people feature these plants in their garden due to their attractive flowers, but they were also planted on heathland and in woodlands to provide cover for game birds. 

There are several hundred species of rhododendron, but only R. ponticum is invasive, which is a big problem. Not only is it good at spreading, but it is also evergreen, and no woodland flora will grow underneath it, which in turn prevents woodland regeneration. It also appears to provide habitat or food for very few species, if any. Once established, it is very difficult to eradicate and control measures usually need to be implemented over several years to have an effect. 

Cherry laurel poses problems similar to rhododendron: it is evergreen and shade-tolerant and has adapted well to our climate. Livestock and other animals such as invertebrates find it unpalatable (it contains cyanide) and so it tends to grow unchecked. 

Kent Wildlife Trust explains how to control these invasive species.

Rides and Coppicing - Kent Wildlife Trust

Both coppicing and the creation of rides and glades mimic natural processes of fires and storms (such as the 1987 hurricane) which open up expanses of woodland to sunlight, allowing ground flora to flourish, taller grassland areas to thrive, and fallen trees to rot down.

Eventually, scrub takes over, saplings grow, and the woodland canopy closes up again. All of these areas provide unique habitats for an array of species.

Kent is one of the most wooded counties in the South East, with well over 45000ha of woodland ranging from sweet chestnut coppice and wet woodland to lowland beech and yew woodland and mixed broadleaved woodland.

Kent Wildlife Trust discuss coppicing and the creation of rides in their downloadable PDF.