Research undertaken by Natural England, CEH (the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology) and Bournemouth University has revealed that Britain’s woodlands are losing their biodiversity in findings published online in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
A number of factors have been identified as contributing factors to the reduction in diversity of species. The researchers compared the results of surveys that were undertaken in the 1930s across 7000 sites in Dorset to their findings after revisiting 86 of the sites originally surveyed and found that the diversity of species of plants found within those woodlands were significantly less so than in the original data set. The overall number of species has remained the same, however the individuality of different areas of woodland has been particularly affected.
Pollution is also being attributed as a cause of the reduction in diversity of species, however scientists believe that fertiliser use in agriculture has had a greater effect as the increase soil fertility has led to trees growing larger with greater canopies. This in turn has meant less light has been able to get through to provide ground level vegetation with enough light to flourish. In addition, changes in woodland management techniques and the types of trees growing in the woodlands have further compounded the problems. Coppicing was once widely used to manage woodlands, something which has as good as died out now.
Sally Keith from Bournemouth University, the lead author of the findings, advised,
“The results show that we must monitor biodiversity at the landscape scale, as well as gaining a better understanding of processes affecting our native flora if we are to conserve and restore the character of the traditional British woodland.”