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Conservation and threats

The habitats of Brede High Woods are home to rare and important wildlife.

Some of this biodiversity is under threat, for example, from conifer trees and invasive species. However, the Woodland Trust is working to protect wildlife and restore threatened habitats.

Conifers

Some areas of Brede High have been planted with non-native conifer trees...

Why are they a threat?

The conifer plantations support less biodiversity than native trees because:

1. Fewer insect species are able to live and feed on the conifers. This is because insects need to adapt to new food sources and and have not yet had time to do this in the case of recently introduced conifer species.

2. The shade cast by densely planted conifers can suffocate the plants below. This includes both the heathland plants such as gorse and heather, and the plants that live on the forest floor in the ancient woodland.

What is the the Woodland Trust doing to help?

To conserve ground-living flora, we are gradually removing conifer trees. The process has begun around biodiversity hotspots such as streams.

Conserving heaths and grassland

The open habitats in Brede High are of national conservation importance because of the rare species they support, not least the flea beetle found in Holman Wood Field but nowhere else in the country!

In Brede High Woods (and in the UK generally), heaths and grasslands are under threat. Not only have they been deliberately planted with trees, trees are also colonising naturally. This is bad news for heathland and grassland species that are not adapted to living in the shade of trees.

In the past, open pasture was preserved thanks to farmers who used the land for cattle grazing, a practice which no longer takes place. However, cattle are being re-introduced, this time for the sole purpose of conservation.

Look out for cattle in the fields...they are playing an important role in conservation!

In 2009 we began major conservation works in Sedlescombe Heath, sensitively returning an area which in recent history was densely planted with conifer species to its traditional habitat type of mixed pasture, heath and woodland. This report explains why it is important for the Woodland Trust to recreate this increasingly rare habitat type:

Sedlescombe Heath report (PDF, 0.3MB)

Invasive species

Invasive species are species which have been introduced to a new area where they harm native species. Grey squirrels are a well-known example. In Brede High, a species of rhododendron is proving to be an especially harmful invader. Although it has beautiful pink flowers, it also spreads across the forest floor casting a deep shade and suffocating native species. The plant is particularly problematic since it can re-sprout from the roots after weeding.