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The wonderful world of wood pasture and parkland

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Wood Pasture and and Parkland is one of our most important habitats but it is one we are only beginning to understand. As a part of the Wood Pasture and Parkland Network (WPPN) we have made a series of videos to shine a light on this forgotten habitat.

The WPPN, is a new national network of organisations working together to promote the value of wood pasture and parkland habitat. This precious, ancient habitat shaped by generations of people working in harmony with nature is home to many endangered species from bats and birds to deadwood insects and fungi. The WPPN shines a spotlight on this forgotten part of our landscape.

The WPPN has produced a series of five short, accessible and informative videos (funded by The Woodland Trust) to raise awareness of this ecologically rich yet overlooked habitat. The videos introduce the ecological, historical and cultural aspects of wood pasture and parkland, and describe management advice for landowners to help maintain their key features.

Jeremy Dagley, the City of London Corporation’s Head of Conservation at Epping Forest (who also presents the videos) explains: “Wood pasture and parkland habitats combine big old trees and their full spreading crowns with open heaths and grasslands and all other ranges of vegetation in between. Wood pastures are especially rich in ancient and hollowing trees, each of which provides its own wealth of micro-habitats for hundreds of species. Many of these species are entirely dependent on these trees and the more open conditions in which they grow.”

“Trees grow an entirely different shape and structure if they have grown in the open, rather than in dense woodland. This structure makes them better at supporting wildlife and often means that they live a lot longer. These trees often with the help of people harvesting their wood can live out their full life potential. This, in turn, means they provide more of the rare habitat of natural wood decay. The last stages of this decay process are now so uncommon that many of the species that rely on it are at risk of extinction.”

Wood pasture and parkland, such as Epping Forest where parts of these videos were filmed, contain some of the oldest living trees in the country. The decaying wood habitats found across wood pasture sites inside these trees are home to many bats, birds, invertebrates, lichens and fungi. Invertebrates that rely on decaying wood are one of the most threatened ecological groups of invertebrates in Europe and yet are also critical, along with decaying wood fungi, to all wooded ecosystems. In fact, earlier this year the IUCN assessed the status of 700 European beetles that live on decaying wood and found that 18% (a fifth) are at risk of extinction due to a lack of this resource, for which traditional wood pasture and parkland sites are now the most important reserves.

Megan Gimber, Key Habitats Officer at PTES adds: “Wood pasture and parklands are positively teeming with life and are home to numerous rare and endangered species, which is why it’s so vital that they are preserved.

“Unlike other habitats such as ancient woodlands and meadows, there isn’t the public recognition of wood pasture and parkland, and the vital contribution to sustaining our wildlife they provide. Our conservation task is a greater challenge as a result, which is why we made this important series of videos.”

Suzanne Perry, Senior Specialist at Natural England concludes: “Wood pasture and parkland is currently under threat from a variety of factors including climate change, pollution, conversion to commercial forestry and tree disease.”

“Therefore, we are delighted to be involved in this partnership, which will help raise awareness of these special places. Natural England hope this new partnership will also contribute to securing a dynamic future for this incredibly rich and diverse habitat.”

Visit www.ptes.org/wppn to watch the videos and to find out more information about the Wood Pasture and Parkland Network.

Wood pasture & parkland facts

  • Wood pasture and parkland is a precious, ancient habitat, which is facing many threats, including fragmentation, conversion to farmland or forestry, neglect, poor management, climate change, pollution and tree disease
  • These habitats are home to numerous rare, endangered species such as the lesser spotted woodpecker, the pearl-bordered fritillary butterfly and the violet click beetle
  • There is a strong correlation between the age of a tree and high species richness
  • At least three-quarters of the 18 British bat species use tree holes for their summer and winter roosts
  • In Britain, the rarest and most threatened saproxylic invertebrates (invertebrates that are dependent on dead or decaying wood) are found in historic parkland and open wood pasture
  • IUCN assessed the status of 700 European beetles that live in deadwood and found that 18% (a fifth) are at risk of extinction due to the decline in ancient trees
  • There are more than 2,000 different invertebrate species in Britain (650 in Ireland) which are dependent on deadwood
  • There are no reliable statistics on the extent of the overall condition of wood pasture and parkland, nor any historical or current rates of degradation. The figure ‘10-20,000 ha currently in a working condition’ was given in the habitat statement of the UK Biodiversity Steering Group report and is the current best estimate
  • Wood pastures are of great cultural value; it is often possible to trace the origin of a site back to Medieval times – trees tell the story of land management through time

 

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