The range of Beech in Britain: lessons from the Quaternary

‘Many ecologists and conservationists, but interestingly not foresters, were blinded for many years by the concept of vegetation as a stable climax.’ (Peterken 1996) Unfortunately, more than 25 years after Peterken published those words, it seems that a level of myopia persists. Identifica­tion books and other texts often define ranges for plant species. These ranges

Is rewilding relevant to contemporary forest policy?

In the twelfth article in the Wilding for Conservation series, Norman Dandy discusses the opportunity for rewilding and forestry to coexist, all the while recognising the importance of both a wilder Britain and the need to increase productive forestry. The deep roots of production forestry – its founding principles and objectives – are eloquently laid

Wild oakwoods: can they exist in lowland England?

In the eleventh article in the Wilding for Conservation series, Aljos Farjon reviews the debate around the conditions required for successful establishment of oak trees, and explores the potential for wild oak-dominated woodland to persist in lowland Britain. In and around Greater London there are many commons, most of them reduced in area from their 19th-century extent

The white woodwaxes: white fungi of the genus Hygrophorus

Woodwaxes, the woodland-dwelling relatives of the waxcaps, form a complex mycorrhizal relationship with trees, and the white species that belong to this group are particularly striking. Geoffrey Kibby provides an introduction to the identification of the ten white woodwaxes found in Britain, accompanied by individual species accounts that describe their physical characteristics in more detail.

The other pandemic: ten years of Ash Dieback

It has been ten years since the fungal disease Ash Dieback was first detected in England, and here Louise Hill describes the origins and impact of Ash Dieback, and what the response to this disease has been in Britain.  Ten years ago, the UK was faced with a plant health emergency of a sort we

Comment: A long-term perspective on rewilding woodland

Lady Park Wood has been left to develop naturally for the last 75 years, and even longer in some parts, but this minimum-intervention approach has demonstrated how rewilding woodland is not always beneficial. In the context of Lady Park Wood, George Peterken descibes the implications of leaving woodlands to run wild for biodiversity, both in terms

Classic Wildlife Sites: Abernethy Forest

Ron Summers explores the natural history, ecology and management of the precious Abernethy Forest, home to ancient Scots Pines Pinus sylvestris and a wealth of associated flora and fauna. Abernethy Forest, in the Highlands, is one of our largest remnants of Caledonian pinewood. The forest is home to some of Scotland’s most iconic animals, such

First steps towards a woodland calendar for the 21st century

Based on 23 years of data, Tim Sparks, Lorienne Whittle and Judith Garforth present a woodland calendar for the 21st century, focusing on five woodland species such as Bluebell and Speckled Wood, and highlight some of the associated issues with these types of calendars. Nature’s Calendar, a scheme coordinated by the Woodland Trust, is the home

Biodiversity and recombinant ecology in conifer plantations

Conifer plantations are a familiar sight across the British landscape but are often thought of as being ‘wildlife deserts’. In this article however, Charles Hipkin instead focuses on the significance of the biodiversity in conifer plantations, and draws on his own observations of plantations in South Wales to describe their ecology and the novel recombinant habitats

A history of the Wildcat in England

The Wildcat is now restricted in Britain to a tiny remnant population in Scotland, but it was formerly far more widespread. Derek Gow and Peter Cooper review the historic literature to track the demise of the Wildcat in England and discuss the influence that this charismatic mammal has had on English culture. ‘The wildcat is

Natural woodland generation as an alternative to tree-planting

Several large-scale tree-planting projects are now being implemented, but these usually overlook an alternative means of expanding forest cover: natural regeneration. Aljos Farjon and Louise Hill discuss the problems with tree-planting, and explore the factors that influence the natural regeneration of oaks and other trees. The UK, with tree cover of 13%, remains one of

Defining ‘natural woodland’

Humans have influenced the distribution and character of British woodlands for thousands of years and, as a result, conservationists are often wary of labelling any modern-day woodland as natural. This cautious approach to the use of the word ‘natural’ is understandable, but is it really necessary? George Peterken argues that we are wasting a perfectly

Tree-felling in Norbury Park: necessary evil or overreaction?

Tree-felling often invokes a negative reaction from the public, but is it justifiable when there is a risk to safety? Patrick Barkham examines the controversy surrounding tree-felling in response to Ash dieback at Norbury Park, Surrey, and talks to the reserve’s managers and local naturalists to learn more about how this work might affect wildlife.

A scent of musk – the ‘life and times’ of Moschatel, the Good Friday flower

Moschatel is a small, musk-scented wild flower that is often associated with ancient woodland. Richard Jefferson and Keith Kirby provide a detailed account of the habitats and distribution of Moschatel, and discuss what is known of the status of this little studied plant. Moschatel Adoxa moschatellina is a diminutive and often overlooked flowering plant of

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