Orchard category definitions
Continuity of habitat for long-term conservation requires trees at all stages of growth.
To discover what wildlife to look for in your orchard, and for guides to making it more biodiversity friendly visit the practical guides and biodiversity pages of our website. We are giving away free trees and grafting kits to get new trees in old orchards.
If the information we have on your orchard is incomplete or you have improved your orchard for biodiversity we would love to hear from you. Contact us at Orchards@ptes.org. Please send us your variety lists too.
Although your orchard might be productive and biodiverse, especially if it has old veteran trees, the category declining reflects the concept of your orchard as a habitat over time, not just a snapshot of today.
For example, without planting new trees, an orchard will slowly age and die. If you wait for all your old trees to die before replanting you will quickly go from an orchard with only old trees, to an orchard with only young trees; thus you will lose the species that require the cavities, crevices and standing deadwood habitat provided by mature trees. Planting new trees will provide continuity and a stable habitat for these species as well as a greater diversity of habitats within the orchard.
Most orchards rated declining can be upgraded to good or excellent by planting more fruit trees, providing a deadwood habitat, preventing and mitigating grazing damage to the trees, or by managing the grassland to prevent too much scrub.
Orchards rated good rather than excellent are almost always those that lack a good deadwood habitat, or do not contain mature fruit trees that provide this habitat naturally. Providing a dead wood habitat, either in the form of a log pile or retaining deadwood within your trees provides a valuable habitat for a wide range of species.
There are several types of dead wood habitat each supporting a different set of species. The least common but most valuable is standing dead wood found as standing dead trees or dead wood within an old living tree. It is difficult to replicate in a young orchard but can be done by (securely) tying a log to a living tree or post, or partially burying it allowing a slow decomposition in an upright position. Failing this, wood piles in both damp, shady and dry, exposed positions can add to the variety of habitats you are providing.
Congratulations, if your orchard is rated excellent it seems like you are doing everything right to make sure your orchard will remain a valuable resource to yourself, future generations and a host of wildlife. This rating means your orchard must have a mixture of ages of tree including young plantings, mown or grazed grassland to prevent excessive scrub encroachment, and dead wood habitats.