As a woodland conservation charity, we get a lot of reports about tree felling from concerned individuals worrying that something untoward is happening at a site. The removal of trees, particularly if it’s at a site that someone loves, can be very upsetting, and it can sometimes appear to come out of the blue. If you’re concerned we recommend that in the first instance you speak to the landowner to find out what work they’re undertaking, but there are lots of reasons for tree felling. One of these is to restore heathland habitat. Let’s take a look at what that means and why it’s important.
The importance of native habitats
Our primary interest is in trees and woodland. However, as a conservation charity we value all important native habitats, which include heathland, wetland and peatlands. Across our estate we manage significant areas of these types of semi-natural habitats in addition to our woods.
Heathland is an important native habitat. It occurs on acidic, impoverished, dry sandy or wet peaty soils, and is characterised by the presence of a range of dwarf-shrubs. Heathland’s importance is in providing a home to many specialised species that cannot live elsewhere.
Many of the UK’s heathlands have been intensively managed, for example through conversion to conifer plantations. To protect their unique wildlife it is vital that they are sensitively restored and managed.
Heathland is also a priority habitat for nature conservation because of its internationally rare and threatened status. The UK has lost over 80% of its heathland since 1800, but what remains represents 20% of all lowland heath in Europe. Inappropriate management (through a modern perspective) during the last century has left many of our heathlands covered with secondary woodland and conifer plantations.