Monday, 16 January 2012

Charity makes woodland fuel plea

Pearl Bordered Fritillary (picture courtesy D E Newland)
Managing neglected English woodlands to produce wood fuel could boost declining species of flowers, conservationists have said.

Plantlife has revealed that one in six woodland flower species is threatened with extinction, with plants hit by the "perfect storm" of under-managed woods, increasing deer populations and too many nutrients in the environment.

But sustainable woodland management to provide wood fuel could generate a low carbon energy source that people could buy to support their local countryside, in the same way as buying local farm produce, and improve woods for wildlife.

Plantlife said that in 1950 around half the country's woodlands were coppiced or scrub.

But by 2010, 97% of woods had become "high forest", with tall trees cutting out light and affecting plants, as well as creatures such as pearl-bordered fritillaries which rely on them.

Plantlife's landscape conservation manager Andrew Byfield said: "All flowering plants require light to grow.

"We think of woodland plants growing in deepest shade but most woodland plants like glades, woodland edges, thin woodlands and rides."

According to the plant charity, rare species including lady orchids and green hound's-tongue have suffered from a lack of woodland management such as coppicing.

More common species such as violets, primroses, early purple orchids and wood anemones also need well-managed woods to flourish.

Mr Byfield said English woodlands were losing their diversity as a result of the lack of management, as well as the pressure on plants from deer and the impact of nutrients which lead to over-growth of species such as brambles.