Forest management for biodiversity and conservation
The law protects designated sites because of their distinctive plants, animals, habitats, geology or landforms. You should take care when working in, or near to, designated nature conservation areas, including:
Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), in Scotland or Areas of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI), in Northern Ireland
- Special Areas of Conservation (SAC)
- Special Protection Areas (SPA)
- Regionally Important Geological/Geomorphological sites (RIGS) nature reserves.
You should make provisions for nature conservation at the planning stage.
What you must do
When considering any forestry operation that could damage a designated site, you must contact your conservation body.
Take expert advice on whether it is likely that any protected species are on your site. Protected species include:
- water voles.
You must avoid harming or disturbing these species or damaging setts, dens, nests and roosts once you begin work. It is an offence to disturb or harm protected species, or to damage any structure that they use as shelter, unless you hold a licence.
The law protects all wild birds, their nests and eggs. You must not destroy or disturb birds' nests while they are in use.
The law protects all species of bats and their roosts (whether the bats are present or not). If you suspect that bats are present, seek professional advice from your conservation body.
When planning your work, you should consider the impact on any wildlife and habitats and what you will do to protect them. This may be a condition of any woodland or forestry grants that you apply for.
BS 42020: Biodiversity. Code of practice for planning and development
This new British Standard 42020 aims to integrate biodiversity into all stages of the planning and development process.
It is of relevance to professionals working in the fields of ecology, land use planning, land management, architecture, civil engineering, landscape architecture, forestry, arboriculture, surveying, building and construction.
- BSI: Smart Guide to BS 42020
- BSI: BS 42020 Biodiversity. Code of practice for planning and development
Dams of large woody debris do not generally obstruct fish from moving up or downstream. They can in fact create valuable diversity and habitats in watercourses. However you should avoid putting in large amounts of brash during harvesting operations, as it can seal dams, stopping fish from passing and destabilising the channels.
Consider removing old sediment-laden dams which may create a barrier to fish movement. You may need to remove some naturally occurring large woody debris where it causes a flood hazard.
Contact your environmental regulator for advice on the best time of year to remove woody debris from streams.
SEPA has produced information on protected species and habitats:
Old trees and 'deadwood' are very valuable wildlife habitats. Do not remove all dead or rotting log and branch material, or standing dead trees as these can form important habitats.
Where possible, position large brash heaps on drier ground away from watercourses.
You should match tree species to site conditions. You can get guidance through the Ecological Site Classification Decision Support System (ESC-DSS) which the Forestry Commission has developed. ESC is a computer based system to help forest managers and planners match ecologically suited species to sites.
Climate change is having an impact on the composition and condition of our forests. The Forestry Commission has produced guidance on planning ahead for the effects of climate change.
In sensitive areas natural regeneration of a site can be better for wildlife than planting. This allows a range of plants and trees to grow that are best suited to the local conditions.
Semi-natural woodland provides a good wildlife habitat and acts as a potential seed source.
The Forestry Commission provides grants for enlarging and reconnecting existing native woodland remnants to Forest Habitat Networks. Forest Habitat Networks provide an ecological basis for planning woodland expansion.
Deer and grey squirrels
You should manage deer and grey squirrels to prevent damage to woodland and wildlife.
- Forest Research: Managing deer in the countryside
- Forest Research: The impact of large herbivores on woodland biodiversity
- Forest Research: Management of grey squirrels