Older woods "not necessarily more bio-diverse"

The relationship between woodland biodiversity and the age of stands is more complex than might be assumed, according to a new research note published by the Forestry Commission.

Image: Keith Laverack
Image: Keith Laverack

Exploring the links between biodiversity and stand age with a view to including it in stand-level models for optimal rotation lengths, the investigation was conducted through literature reviews and re-examination of UK Biodiversity Assessment Plan (UK BAP) data.

It found no simple or universal correlation between biodiversity and stand age. Indeed after a brief initial increase, bird and mammal biodiversity were found to decline until the stand is about 20 years old, and increase again thereafter.

Upland Sitka spruce stands were an exception, with biodiversity levels higher in young and more mature forests, and at a minimum when forests were about 40 years old.

The relationship with stand age can be further influenced by geographical location, land-use history, tree species, natural or planted origin, and climate change impacts, the authors, all of the Forestry Commission's Forest Research agency, point out.

The research note can be downloaded from the Forestry Commission website.

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