Priority Habitats and Species: Ancient Semi-Natural Woodland (including PAWS and RNWAS),
Wet Woodland, Other Broadleaf Woodland, Scrub, Dormouse, Spotted Flycatcher
- Extend the total area of woodland and scrub habitat, reflecting the characteristic variations in composition and pattern.
- Maintain or restore the nature conservation interest of woodland utilising appropriate management systems to achieve favourable conditions
- Restore habitat damage, utilising natural regeneration or planting with native species of the appropriate provenance
- Better connectivity between and buffering of, key woodland sites using new planting and natural scrub expansion.
- Protect, maintain and enhance the quality of woodland and scrub habitat.
- Ensure that any restoration of PAWS sites is according to Woodland Trust / Forestry Commission guidelines
- Raise awareness of local, national and international importance of Woodland and Scrub habitats and associated flora and fauna.
Ancient Semi-Natural Woodland Targets
Vision Statement: For better protected ancient woodland stands, buffered and connected by new native woodland planting and in good management and good condition.
|1. To maintain the extent of ancient woodland sites (including PAWS) in the Durham BAP area.||maintain||ha||tbc|
|2. To achieve favourable or recovering condition of ancient woodland sites (including PAWS) in the Durham BAP area.||achieve condition||ha||100|
|3. Restore non-native plantations on ancient woodland sites (PAWS) to native woodland.||restore||ha||150|
Wet Woodland Targets
Vision Statement: To greatly expand the area of wet woodland through re-wetting schemes, and to protect and buffer all older stands of wet woodland.
|1. To maintain the extent of mature wet woodland in the Durham BAP area.||maintain||ha||tbc|
|2. To increase the extent of wet woodland in the Durham BAP area through rewetting and/or planting schemes.||expand||ha||50|
Other Broadleaf Woodland Targets
Vision Statement: For new native woodland planting to be used to buffer & connect our existing mature woodland resource, and for all mature broadleaf woodlands to have protection and appropriate management.
|1. To expand the area of broadleaf woodland in the Durham BAP area through a combination of converting existing plantations and creating new native broadleaf woodlands.||expand||ha||850|
|2. To increase the area of broadleaf woodland known to be under active management in the Durham BAP area.||achievecondition||ha||100|
Vision Statement: For a balance to be struck between scrub removal for grassland restoration, and scrub retention for woodland regeneration and coastal landfall. For an increased awareness of the importance of scrub for the needs of invertebrates and birds.
|1. To expand the area of maritime scrub in the Durham BAP area.||expand||ha||2|
Vision Statement: For there to be sufficient extent and connectivity of suitable lowland broadleaved woodlands for a viable re-introduction scheme.
|1. To maintain the current range of dormouse in the Durham BAP area.||maintain||occupied km squares||tbc|
Spotted Flycatcher Targets
|1. To maintain the range of breeding spotted flycatcher in the Durham BAP area||maintain||occupied tetrads||73|
Ancient Semi-Natural Woodland and PAWS and RNWAS
Ancient woodland comprises all land which has been continuously wooded since 1600. It includes semi-natural woodland (ASNW), and sites which have been felled and replanted (usually with a conifer crop) known as planted ancient woodland sites (PAWS).
This is our core resource, since the value of woodland for wildlife partly resides in the continuity of its existence, the stable conditions over decades or centuries, and the resultant build up of complexity and biodiversity within the system. Many PAWS retain ground flora and deadwood that indicate the possibility of reverting to ancient semi-natural woodland with careful management.
Ancient semi-natural woodland is usually broadleaved in Durham, but also includes small stands of native Yew Woodland and Juniper scrub. Juniper has its own Action Plan.
Ancient woodland is widespread, but fragmented, within Durham. It is slightly less fragmented along the Wear, Tees and Derwent corridors. Recent surveys in adjacent areas suggest the resource is still in decline.
Other Broadleaf Woodland
This priority habitat encompasses all non-ancient woodland (established since 1600) which is comprised of predominantly broadleaf species. This includes secondary as well as plantation woodland, and may also include woodlands with significant cover of non-native species. Many of Durham’s more mature woodlands outside of ancient sites are not predominantly native, being dominated by beech or sycamore. These predominantly non-native broadleaf woodlands are valuable wildlife habitat because of their maturity and structural diversity. It should be noted, however, that the presence of non-native seed sources may cause problems for neighbouring semi-natural woodlands as we aim to increase the proportion of native woodlands in the landscape.
Upland woodland with a long history of understorey winter grazing may be a particularly important type of broadleaf woodland which we will refer to as upland wood pasture. Its open structure mimics that of true ancient upland oak woodland, and it may provide important habitat for species such as black grouse and pied flycatcher.
However little is known about the history and distribution of such sites and many grazed upland woodlands have no such history and are simply overgrazed. The biggest threat to upland woodland biodiversity as a whole is grazing by domestic livestock which prevents or severely constrains natural regeneration.
Upland wood pasture evolved on an extensive grazing pattern which is not economic today and the default management position for these woodlands should be to fence them against domestic livestock grazing.
New woodland, through planting or the natural regeneration of scrub, can play an important role in buffering ancient woodland areas and in connecting and expanding small and isolated stands of our most species rich woodlands. It is also an important wildlife resource in its own right, especially in areas with little woodland or scrub cover.
Targets for this priority habitat are concerned with new planting and good management and any new plantations should be stocked with appropriate native species. Native but non-broadleaf species such as yew and juniper may be important elements of these plantations or secondary woodlands
Natural regeneration and/or plantation of native woodland should be targeted at strategic sites which buffer or link existing ancient and/or species rich woodlands. Care should be taken, however, to avoid planting or excessive scrub encroachment on other sensitive BAP habitats.
Broadleaf woodland cover is low in the Durham BAP area in the national context, although recent policy drivers from the UK government are leading to increased extent and better condition of native broadleaf woodland cover.
Wet woodland occurs on poorly drained or seasonally wet soils, usually with alder, birch and willows as the predominant tree species. It is found on floodplains, as successional habitat on fens and bogs, along streams and hill-side flushes, and in peaty hollows. In terms of the National Vegetation Classification it includes a wide range of communities from W1 to W8.
The boundaries with dry land woodland may be sharp or gradual and may (but not always) change with time through succession, depending on the hydrological conditions and the treatment of the wood and its surrounding land. Therefore wet woods frequently occur in mosaic with other woodland key habitat types (e.g. with upland mixed ash or oakwoods) and with open habitats such as fens. Management of individual sites needs to consider both sets of requirements.
Wet woodland is rare in the Durham BAP area and has declined through natural succession to drier communities combined with a lack of opportunity for expansion into new wet habitats.
Re-wetting of large areas of the countryside through the refocusing of flood defence budgets provides opportunities for expansion of this habitat.
Scrub is an essential structural element of many habitat mosaics, rather than a habitat in its own right. It has the potential to offer a naturally regenerating buffer and expanding edge for woodland.
Scrub provides important roosting and feeding areas for migrant birds, especially those arriving on the coast from across the North Sea. In an area with little tree cover such as the Durham coast, scrub is an important landfall for these passage migrants.
Juniper scrub is valuable in its own right as a rare and declining habitat. See the Juniper Action Plan.
DEFRA, in its Farm Environment Plan Guidance Handbook, recognises ‘scrub of high environmental value’ as a separate category. In the Durham area, and in addition to Juniper scrub and coastal scrub, this would include the following communities which should be protected and managed:
Scrub on calcareous soils with three or more of the following species: way-faring tree, wild privet, dogwood, spurge laurel, black bryony, hawthorn or spindle.
Scrub on peat soils with two or more of the following species: tea-leaved willow, eared willow, goat willow, grey willow, bay willow, purple willow, osier.
Two priority species with particular woodland habitat requirements, are the Dormouse and the Spotted Flycatcher.
The Dormouse is thought to have disappeared from Durham and there have been no records in the last 10 years, although it is still recorded in Teeside and Northumberland. Lack of suitable and connected woodland habitat is thought to be responsible for its decline.
The Spotted Flycatcher is a summer migrant bird which uses woodland and scrub in the Pennine Dales. It is in sharp decline, although whether the reasons for this are to do with its winter or summer habitat is not known. Monitoring of this species is proposed.
- Intensive farming methods have progressively reduced the extent of woodland, especially in the east of our area, restricting good examples to steep-sided valleys.
- Pesticide / herbicide spray drift is particularly threatening to small isolated woodland in the agricultural landscape.
- Drainage and over abstraction of water can lead to loss of wet woodland.
- Removal of birch, willow and alder scrub from wetland sites because of a perceived threat to the existing conservation value, means that new wet woodland does not get a chance to develop.
- Small, linear dene woodlands are particularly prone to damage from access tracks which run along their length.
- Loss of habitat through road-building and development, especially of ancient or old semi-natural woodland, is still of concern.
- Fragmentation of habitat through road building, development or agricultural change will impoverish the biodiversity of woodland sites. Some small sites are lost to development.
- Increasing access to woodlands by the public, and an increasingly risk averse culture, leads to excessive removal of standing deadwood from some woodlands.
- Cessation of coppicing management in upland oak woodlands has lead to even-aged stands of trees with little regeneration.
- Browsing by wild animals such as deer and rabbits can contribute to a loss of ground flora, and a lack of woodland regeneration. This is difficult to control and requires a regional approach to management.
- Insufficient fencing adjacent to pasture, allowing browsing by livestock, can have the same effect.
- Hard boundaries between woodland and other land-uses does not allow the scrub regeneration which would naturally occur, and which provides a valuable ecotone and protection for the core woodland site. This is particularly so for wet woodland which is dynamic in nature.
- Insensitive restoration of PAWS can lead to loss of ancient woodland wildlife and features.
- Non-native tree species within woodland can eventually spread and replace the native structure of a woodland through natural regeneration.
- Other competitive vegetation such as bracken and rhododendron can contribute to lack of regeneration by reducing light, water and nutrient availability.
- Overzealous scrub removal on grassland sites can lead to insufficient scrub cover for passage migrants in coastal areas.