Trends and Threats [top]
FC census of 1947, 1980 and 1997 identify the following trends in
in broadleaved woods
area - hectares
area - hectares
from coppice to high forest
area - hectares
forest area - hectares
Nature's Ancient Woodland Inventory identifies the following changes
in the ancient woodland habitat:
of ancient semi-natural woodland (asnw)
· asnw in mid 1980's - 21596 ha
· loss since 1930's - 3000 ha
(but probably relatively little loss in the last 10 years)
It is also apparent from information on other habitats that woodland
is spreading on other habitats, for example:
· Downland - 50% of loss of chalk grassland in the last 20
years was due to scrub invasion.
· Heathland - planting and natural regeneration of pine,
and the spread of scrub
· Internal woodland habitats - loss of rides, glades, patches
extent of woodland in Sussex is increasing. Some of this is to be
welcomed but much (such as the spread of scrub on Downland grassland
and Sussex heaths of high ecological quality) is causing environmental
the other hand there is a longer-term loss of ancient semi-natural
woodland. Ancient woodland is essentially an irreplaceable resource
on human timescales. In ecological terms the loss of ancient woodland
is not compensated for by the expansion of more recent woodland.
In the last 60 years about 8% (3,000 ha) of the ancient woodland
have been grubbed out altogether, replanting with conifers has degraded
a further 36% (14,000 ha). Though reduced in their ecological value,
replanted ancient woods often retain some wildlife value and it
may be possible to restore these to semi-natural condition in the
summarise, therefore the main trends in the woodland habitat are
· Woodland extent is increasing, often at the expense of
ecologically valuable unwooded habitats
· There is an increase in the amount of broadleaved woodland
· There is a decrease in the amount of conifer woodland being
· The area of coppice is reducing whilst area of high forest
(including managed, unmanaged and coppice which has grown into high
forest) is increasing
· Much woodland remains unmanaged
· There is a continuing trend of a lack of incentives for
management - timber markets are limited and woods are mainly unprofitable.
· Only a relatively small proportion of timber used in the
region comes from local sources.
7. Potential [top]
ancient woodland on any meaningful timescale is impossible. However,
it is possible to restore ancient sites that have been degraded
through neglect. The conservation value of ancient semi-natural
woods (as with all woods) can readily be enhanced through sympathetic
management. This may be based on a system of small-scale cutting
to produce open-canopy high forest with various patches of growth
woodland that has been neglected for a few decades can be restored
by the careful reintroduction of a coppice cycle. The species associated
with open, dynamic woodland, which may have become rare as a result
of neglect, may then be able to spread or recolonise the site. The
success of the coppice work undertaken by volunteers on the Sussex
Wildlife Trust's West Dean Woods Reserve is evidence of just how
much can be achieved.
this approach will be very site dependent as restoration may not
always be appropriate, especially on sites that have been neglected
for a long period. These woods may no longer have the wildlife that
relies on coppicing and may be unlikely to regain it if coppicing
is reinstated. These woods are best converted to high forest with
a coppice or shrub understory rather than treated as traditional
coppice with standards. Where there are remnants of "old growth"
woodland within coppices, these should be retained. Furthermore,
Forestry Commission statistics indicate that, despite the desirability
of traditional management methods, it is clear that a traditional
coppice with standards cycle is unlikely to become the predominant
management system in previously coppiced woods. It may be that other
forms of management may have to be adopted which produce the occasional
openings in the canopy required by many of our woodland species,
previously provided by a coppice cycle.
of the ecological interest may remain in replanted sites so there
is potential for restoring broadleaved woodland on some replanted
ancient sites. A variety of approaches could achieve restoration,
ranging from changing to native broadleaves when the current crop
of conifers matures and is harvested through to the progressive
thinning of conifer/broadleaved mixtures to favour the broadleaved
element. Again this will be very site dependent. Conversion to broadleaves
may be beneficial where the conifer crop did not establish well,
whilst, alternatively, many mixed conifer/broadleaf woods have developed
their own rich biodiversity so restoration may not be worthwhile.
Conversion back to semi-natural condition often yields the greatest
benefits, but conversion to native broadleaved species, ride management,
maintaining belts of broadleaves and the promotion of openings in
conifer stands may all give ecological benefits.
some locations restoration to a non-woodland habitat will be desirable
to achieve biodiversity targets. A key example is heathland. The
removal of a conifer crop at the end of the rotation may allow an
opportunity to restore heathland. However, on many sites the heathland
habitat is fairly dynamic and often scattered throughout a forestry
plantation (for example in St Leonard's Forest). In these situations
it may be possible to restore the heathland interest of the site
by introducing a lag of a few years between the time of felling
and the following replanting. This would allow time for temporary
heathland regeneration. If this happened in all clear-fell coups
throughout the forestry estate, the result would be a matrix of
patches of heathland regeneration within the forestry complex, possibly
connected by longer-term heathland habitat in rides and glades.
This latter option may be more sustainable than the creation of
permanent expanses of heathland. It is difficult to achieve long-term
management of heathland, but if heathland matrices are created within
economic forestry operations then heathland may have a greater chance
of long term survival.
that are receiving intense management, often in private gardens,
do sometimes retain their ecological interest. Elsewhere careful
management may be needed to restore their value. A main problem,
however, is lack of information. Regeneration of trees and shrubs
is normal in woodlands and it seems unlikely that this alone could
cause the long-term degradation of a site. Research is needed in
order to understand how this habitat survives natural regeneration
of the trees around it and this should guide management principles.
It may be that the habitat experiences routine population fluctuations
in relation to natural regeneration. If this is the case then there
may be some potential for habitat restoration with appropriate management.
habitat networks, functioning as near-natural systems rather than
through intense management, could be created in Sussex. In the Weald
of West Sussex there are clusters of old well-wooded commons which
have received very little management in the recent past. The most
well-known examples of these are Ebernoe Common and The Mens near
Petworth. These are developing towards "old growth" forest,
a mature forest system where most of the variety is determined by
natural processes rather than human management. They are of international
importance for their wildlife and have the potential to form the
core of a large near-natural forest. Some of the land between these
old woods is of low agricultural value and forest re-creation could
be an appropriate alternative land use. There may also be similar
opportunities in the Weald in East Sussex.
planting can restore and enhance existing woods of all types by
creating interconnectedness, increasing the critical size of woods
to create a more viable habitat for key species. The Wealden woodland
context is probably unique in England in providing a matrix of closely
juxtaposed small and medium sized woodlands (mostly ancient) that
were, in relatively recent times, part of a single woodland block.
Many of these woodlands are still partially connected by shaws and
hedgerows. The close proximity of so much ancient semi-natural woodland
to more recent woodland facilitates colonisation by otherwise immobile
species and blurs the distinction between ancient and secondary
woodland. (This does not, of course, undermine the historical and
cultural irreplaceability of true ancient woodland). There is therefore
a great deal of potential for enhancing woodland in Sussex through
relatively small areas of new planting which could greatly enhance
the functional connectedness between woods and produce substantially
larger habitat blocks.
areas of land are likely to come out of agriculture over the next
50 years. The Government have recently published a White Paper on
Rural England suggesting an aspirational target of doubling woodland
in England over the next half century. There is an acknowledged
need to increase timber production. Britain currently imports 85%
of its timber and even in well-wooded Sussex only a small proportion
of commercial timber comes from sustainable local sources. Sustainable
woodland management here could have considerable environmental benefits
by reducing the use of ecologically damaging imports. There is therefore
potential to expand commercial forestry especially on land coming
out of productive agriculture. Ideally this should include planting
on some of the high quality agricultural land.
will need to be incentives to encourage the planting of forests
and to recognise the long-term environmental benefits of woodland.
The acceptance of woodland planting against set-aside targets is
a useful first step showing the future direction of policy. Maximum
environmental benefit will occur if forestry planting takes place
on land which has previously been in intensive arable or short-term
grassland use. The expansion of current woodland blocks and the
linking of existing ancient woodland by new belts and shaws would
be particularly valuable. The re-creation of riverine woodlands,
a habitat type missing from most of the English lowlands, would
be particularly valuable. Wet woodlands of willow, alder and black
poplar could be planted on former arable and intensive grassland
sites in our wetland systems.
summary, there is great potential for enhancing the woodland habitat
in Sussex. Some of this potential is relatively general (such as
new planting) as long as the proper checks and balances are in place.
Much, however, is very site dependent (such as coppice restoration
and conversion of conifer woods to semi-natural condition). The
general targets detailed below represent the order of magnitude
of changes that could be achieved, but the value of achievement
will be critically linked to the specifics of a particular site.
Current Action [top]
The Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR)
has published 'A Strategy for Sustainable Development for the United
Kingdom' (May 1999) which provides strategic directions for wildlife
protection and enhancement, and for the UK forests and woodlands.
This talks also about integrating sustainable timber production
with recreation, tourism and conservation. On ancient and semi-natural
woodlands, the government aims to halt the decline in their area
and reduce the degree of fragmentation seen over past decades. The
area of UK woodland, ancient semi-natural woodland area and sustainable
management are explicitly stated as 'indicators' appropriate to
the SD strategy.
policies in Local and Structure plans
Under Circular 27/87 and more recently following guidance in Policy
and Planning Guidance note No. 9 on Nature Conservation, local and
strategic authorities in Sussex have all introduced policies in
their Local and Structure Plans that offer some degree of protection
to ancient woodland.
In March 1999 Circular 9/95 was amended to include the Forestry
Commission as a 'non-statutory consultee' on planning applications
potentially affecting ancient woodlands. Proposals which affect
ancient semi-natural woodlands and ancient replanted woodlands,
as recorded on EN's provisional inventory of ancient woodland, would
fall within the potential area for consultation with FC and it will
be instructive to see the extent of the likely impacts over time.
It is FC policy that areas that are currently woodland are expected
to remain so. As a result felling licences are generally only granted
on the condition that the area concerned is either replanted or
allowed to regenerate naturally.
Forestry Strategy, 1999. (EFS)
The EFS outlines the current view on the role of forestry in England.
This is now very much focussed on multiple objectives, encompassing
rural development, economic regeneration, recreation, access, tourism,
the environment and conservation. The strategy will be achieved
through better targeting of resources, to focus on areas of greatest
opportunity and need. Thus the aim is to better utilise public,
and other funds, to achieve greatest public benefit.
UK Woodland Assurance Scheme (UKWAS)
It is becoming increasingly important for purchasers of timber and
wood produce to feel confident that material they are buying was
grown or managed in an environmentally sustainable way. The Forest
Stewardship Council (FSC) is essentially the international organisation
that certifies timber as being from sustainable sources. In Britain,
however, this is done through the UK Woodland Assurance Scheme (UKWAS).
This is a standard agreed by the UK Forestry Community, facilitated
by the Forestry Commission and confirmed by the FSC.
Enterprise's Strategic Plan for the South East.
The South East is a very well-wooded regional and FE only control
a relatively small proportion of the forests, nevertheless they
are important woodland owners and managers whose activities are
highly influential. This document describes how FE will manage the
woods in its care. It sets out priorities for four key areas of
activity, consistent with the England Forestry Strategy: recreation,
nature conservation, rural development and economic development.
As woodland is such a major issue in both East and West Sussex,
both County Councils have prepared County Woodland Strategies. These
followed the major growth in interest in woodland after the 1987
storm and so their main emphasis was on landscape restoration. They
provide an excellent tool for defining a menu of options for enhancement
for landscape units that are recognisable to people on the ground
and have been used for the targeting of advice and grant aid. Work
in county woodland strategies continues to develop. For example
East Sussex are in the process of revising their strategy and West
Sussex County Council have developed the thinking into a wider landscape
Existing Financial Incentive Measures
Forestry Commission administers the key grant schemes that provide
financial incentives for woodland planting and management. The two
main grants are the Woodland Grant Scheme (WGS) which pays for both
planting and management and the Woodland Improvement Grant (WIG)
which is targeted on particular themes including public access,
neglected woodland and biodiversity. Grant schemes are now discretionary,
using a clear points system to provide a measure of the public benefit
resulting from a proposal. Contribution to the actions in a Biodiversity
Action Plan is one of the criteria in the points system.
10 Objectives [top]
Maintain the existing area of ancient semi-natural woodland.
b) Achieve favourable condition in woodlands through appropriate
c) Restore a proportion of replanted ancient woodland to semi-natural
d) Restore gill woods and sandrock outcrops to enhance their conservation
e) Expand the area of new native woods:
· In locations which will deliver the greatest ecological
gains and which do not cause damage to existing interest (examples
might be locations which fill gaps, form linkages between existing
woods and which recreate rare woodland types, for example riverine
· In locations which enhance the near-natural functioning
of the forest matrix at a landscape scale (this requires an approach
based on the interconnectedness of woodland, volume of habitat and
structural diversity within an area).
f) Ensure woodland and forestry management fully considers non-wooded
g) Re-create at least one large near-natural woodland in Sussex
using the 'Forest Habitat Network' principles currently being developed.
h) Expand the area of commercial plantation on agriculturally productive
land and where it will not cause damage to existing ecological,
landscape or archaeological interest.
i) Enhance the economic viability of woodlands managed with conservation
j) Increase the amount of locally grown timber in order to substitute
for less environmentally sensitive imports of timber and to substitute
for other less environmentally sensitive materials.
1 Maintain the existing area of ancient semi-natural woodland. (a)
2 Initiate measures to achieve favourable conservation status in
100% of woodland within SSSIs and Special Areas of Conservation,
and in 80% of the total resource by 2004 (b)
3 Achieve favourable conservation status in over 70% of the designated
sites and 50% of the total woodland resource by 2010.
Such measures to include: (b)
· 25% of previously coppiced woods brought back into coppice
· 25% of neglected coppice woods to be brought under environmentally
beneficial forms of high forest management. (b)
· Achieve favourable conservation status in 80% of gill woods
and sandrock outcrops by 2010. (d)
4 Restore 10% of the former areas of ancient sites that have been
substantially replanted with conifers in the last 50 years or that
are currently dominated by other non-native species by 2010. (c)
5 Restore other key habitats that have become colonised by trees
(see other Habitat Action Plans for detail). For example in forestry
plantations on heathy soils, a delay in the management cycle, between
clear felling and replanting would allow a patchwork of heathland
regeneration throughout the forest as a whole. (f)
6 Initiate colonisation and/or planting of woodland on unwooded
or ex-plantation sites to increase the extent of woodland by 10%.
Complete establishment of half of this by 2010 and all of it by
2015. Expansion plans to include the following elements: (e,g,h)
· The creation of a large near-natural forest of 10,000 ha
in extent by 2050
· Riverine forests of black poplar and other appropriate
species in appropriate flood plain locations.
· Woodland belts, shaws and expansions to improve the interconnectedness
and ecological functioning of woodlands particularly in the Weald
· High quality commercial plantations in appropriate locations.
7 Increase the proportion of locally produced timber used in Sussex
8 Increase the use of local timber as an alternative to less environmentally
sensitive materials or processes. (i,j)
following costs have been estimated based on the grants available
at present. Costs are based on the assumption that targets will
be achieved through the payment of grants in order to achieve the
outputs. This is not always the case as many actions take place
independently of grants paid. Also these costs do not take account
of funds saved through land use change. As an extreme example take
the planting of a near natural forest on 1,500 ha of land. If this
was done on previous arable land then the costs of arable area payments
would be saved. Assuming arable area payments of, on average, £200
per year per hectare for 50 years this would be a cost of £15,000,000
to the exchequer that would be saved by converting to a near-natural
Costs given below therefore represent a very high estimate, without
consideration of potential savings to the exchequer.
cost or grant
semi natural woodland managed with conservation objectives,
approximate yearly cost after 2010, assuming 50% target achieved
using management grants
grant - £35 per ha
planted ancient woodland back to semi-natural.
Total cost by 2010
grant - £1,050 - 1,350 per ha
Total cost for target
£10,000 per site
Estimated yearly cost
100 ha per year
£250 per 20 ha woodland unit.
Total cost for target by 2015
grant, £1,050 - 1,350
Total cost of target by 2050
(assume £2000 per ha)
· Planting grants:
<10 ha - £700 per ha for conifers. £1350 per ha for
>10 ha - £700 per ha for conifers. £1050 per ha for
· Better land supplement: £600 per ha
· Community woodland supplement: £950 per ha
· Locational supplement: £600 per ha
· Short rotation coppice: £600 per ha. £400 on
· Restocking: £325 per ha for conifers. £525
per ha for broadleaves
· Management grant: £35 per ha per year.
Woodland improvement grant ?
· No current grant for management plans, but when previously
introduced the rate paid was £100 as a contribution per plan.
For this purpose we have estimated the sum of £250 per 20
ha unit as a reasonable contribution to management plans.
12 Action Plan [top]