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Restoring Ancient Coppice Woodland

Below are links and extracts from some literature on the subject, mostly from Forestry Commission sources.  I hope anyone interested in being involved will find them useful reading.   In the light of the apparent policy, [Check the last paragraph] it's even possible that FC may have to pay to bring the coppice back into rotation, and we should ensure that we (or members) are in a position to participate in any such programme.

Beginning about 2000 or so, for three years we began the restoration of coppice working in part of the ancient coppice area on Potterland Hill.   We cut three successive coupes and protected them with dead and laid hedge materials, and they were doing pretty well.  Sadly, in 2004, thinning contractors destroyed our protective efforts and reduced our enthusiasm. I've recently been checking out the felled areas, and reckon that the first coupe has sufficient re-growth and is ready for felling again.


Coppicing Hazel - Potterland Hill, October 2001
October 6th, 2001 - photo: Simon Brooke

I hope to get the Forestry Commission to agree to let us get back in sometime this winter to harvest this coupe, and possibly to have a go at starting restoration on another coupe in another part of the area.   We can then use the material for a course in the Spring gathering at Taliesin.

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Neglected birch coppice woodland
Coppice woodlands
Background

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Coppice was the traditional form of silviculture practised in many woodlands in lowland Britain, and the estimated areas of simple coppice, and coppice with standards, has been declining for at least a century. However, during recent years there has been a revival of interest in this form of management.
Coppice woodlands often have a potentially high conservation value, but many of those that remain are neglected, and require management in order to retain their character and biodiversity. Whilst there has been much interest in the ecology of coppice woodlands there has been little systematic study of the silviculture of either coppice stools or woodlands.

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Information note 56: Restoration of Neglected Hazel Coppice by Ralph Harmer, March 2004
SUMMARY
The biology and silviculture of hazel coppice woodlands are briefly explained. Practical procedures for management of stools are described and the results of a recent case study on growth and yield are presented. The month of felling, or height at which stools are cut, has little long-term effect on either mortality of stools or regrowth of coppice shoots. Adequate protection from browsing animals is necessary to ensure success. Excessive browsing will reduce economic potential and may kill stools.

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Information note 259:
MANAGEMENT OF COPPICE STOOLS by Ralph Harmer
Abstract
Coppice is a traditional method of woodland management in which stools are cut on a regular cycle; this provides a valuable supply of small-wood and a variety of habitats for wildlife. This Note describes management of the stools which make up traditional, mixed-species coppice. The information presented includes establishment, method of cutting, position and timing of cut, protection from browsing and management of standards.

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And on Plantations on Ancient Woodland Sites (PAWS) in general:
Forestry Commission Practice Note 14.
Restoration of native woodland on ancient woodland sites (PDF-1975K)
This Forest Practice Guide provides advice on why, where and how to restore PAWS.
The purpose of this Guide is to give Best Practice advice to owners and managers on the restoration of native woodland on ancient woodland sites which have been planted with non-native species since the 1930s. These ‘non-native PAWS’ form around 60% of the total PAWS resource which is 220 000 hectares. Ancient woodland sites are those included in the inventories of ancient woodland which were based on the oldest reliable national information. In England and Wales this goes back to 1600; in Scotland to 1750....
A framework allows the assessment of restoration potential of a site or ranking of a range of sites. Restoration methods are discussed with advice given on the protection of ancient woodland remnants and development of native woodland.
Also available in hard-copy.

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And, the FC grant policy on restoration (in case we found ourselves in an ownership situation....(stewardship grant may be applicable to Taliesin))
This note sets out how the Scottish Forestry Grants Scheme will be used in relation to future management of plantations on ancient woodland sites (PAWS), and defines the meaning of ‘priority sites’ in the context of Stewardship 3 grant. The Forestry Practice Guide ‘Restoration of native woodlands on ancient woodland sites’, published in April 2003, [see above] sets out options for managing these sites and should be used for more detailed practical guidance.

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Restoration of lowland conifer PAWS
Ralph Harmer and Andrea Kiewitt (PDF-1299K)
Brief report of vegetation changes and seedling development that occurred following thinning in a Corsican pine PAWS.
From the introduction:
About 40% of ancient woodland that existed in the 1930s was converted to plantations, mostly between 1950 and 1980: these plantations on ancient woodland sites are commonly known as PAWS. Despite intensive silvicultural practices, the conversion of existing broadleaved woodland sites to conifers was often less successful than afforestation. The process of conversion became a contentious issue and was abandoned in 1985 when the government’s policy for broadleaved woodlands was introduced. PAWS often retain a number of features characteristic of the preceding native woodland, including remnants of the ground flora, old coppice stools and veteran trees which can provide a nucleus around which a new broadleaved woodland can be created. Restoration of native broadleaved woodland is an important aim of current policy and a significant management objective of many PAWS. The aim of restoration is to create the conditions needed to promote the development of native woodland over the long term; it is a process which attempts to re-establish a functioning ecosystem by:

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Restoration of upland planted ancient woodland sites (PAWS) (Ralph Harmer)
...There is currently a lot of emphasis on the use of gradual methods to convert the plantation to a native woodland using alternative silvicultural systems to clearfell. Under this ecology of upland native woodlands programme and the Lowland Native Woodlands programme, we are undertaking a number of experiments to determine the appropriate approach for a range of former woodland types....

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And there's this
Harmer, R. and Kiewitt, A. (2007). Restoration of PAWS – testing some of the advice,
Quarterly Journal of Forestry, 101, 213 – 218. (not available online)
or Order Harmer's book
The silviculture and management of coppice woodlands
Management handbook

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And, From George Peterken:
NATIVE WOODLAND DEVELOPMENT IN THE NORTH YORK MOORS AND HOWARDIAN HILLS 2002
George F Peterken, OBE, D.Sc., M.I.C.For
Part Two
Though targetted on Yorkshire, like anything by Peterken, it's worth reading.

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An interesting excerpt from Part 2:
5.1. Defining native tree species
‘Native tree species’ have to be defined before we can define ‘native woodland’, but no single definition is invariably appropriate. We generally agree on which species are native to Britain or a region of Britain, but we also need to decide where ‘regionally- native’ species and also ‘site-native’. We also have to consider provenance. Native status should be seen not as a black-and-white matter, but as a spectrum of attributes. The strictest definition would insist that a population of a species can only be described as ‘native’ if it owes its presence wholly to natural processes, and has descended on or near its present site from populations that were present in original- natural forest, i.e., its provenance is strictly local. This definition is appropriate to nature reserves and the more important ancient woods.

Elsewhere, it may be acceptable to use a wider definition. Species are recognised as ‘regionally-native’ if they have long been present and arrived by natural means, even though many of the existing stands have been planted, sometimes using non-local provenances. This wider definition can be refined to recognise a regionally-native species as ‘site-native’ if it occupies ground which it would occupy naturally. Thus, for example, sessile oak is regionally native to the NYM/HH, but probably not site-native to deep, wet soils on floodplains. The concept of regional- and site-native species would be appropriate for the generality of native woodlands.

A still wider definition might be appropriate in some circumstances. Species that were introduced to the region, but which are now self-supporting are usually described as ‘naturalised’, and it is possible that they will have become genetically adapted (through natural or forestry selection) to the site, i.e., they have developed a land race that grows better locally than any other provenance. Since the general public would probably accept any deciduous broadleaved tree species as native, it may be appropriate to accept naturalised (i.e, naturally self-perpetuating) deciduous broadleaved species as de facto natives in the less ecologically important sites, mostly recent secondary woodland.

A yet wider definition may be acceptable in limited circumstances. Naturalised coniferous and evergreen broadleaved species may be just as self-supporting and adapted to the site as naturalised deciduous broadleaves, but they form en masse an alien physiognomy. In recent secondary woods, natural regeneration of these species may be acceptable, provided it remains a minority of the stand.

In practice, there is no doubt that species such as oak and ash are regionally native and that, for example, Douglas fir is not, but between these a few species remain ambiguous. Where should forest managers treat them as native? In the NYM/HH, the following solutions are recommended on the basis of historical presence, conformity with prevailing woodland types, and ecological impacts, and in conformity with advice previously offered by the Forestry Commission (1994):

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From Forestry Commission Scotland:
Woods for Nature - Our Biodiversity Programme - 2008-2011
We have a lead role under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UKBAP) for native woodland priority habitats in Scotland, and we will continue to focus on leading delivery of the Habitat Action Plan (HAP) targets in Scotland for expanding native woodland area, improving the condition of existing native woods and restoring native woods from non-native plantations on ancient woodland sites (PAWS).
... To help achieve HAP targets we will seek minimum annual outcomes for the three years of this programme of 4,500ha of expansion, 6,000ha brought into management to improve condition (including designated and other woods), and 1000ha of non-native PAWS put into restoration toward native woodland. For some PAWS sites complete restoration to native woodland will not be the best option, and partial restoration work to safeguard and enhance remnant ancient woodland features may be more suitable. We encourage careful consideration of restoration options for PAWS, both in forest design plans on the national forest estate and Forest Plans under the Scottish Rural Development Programme.


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