Conifer plantations support different bird communities during their progressive stages of growth and management. Young plantations (from planting to thicket stage) may support important populations of species typical of non-wooded and scrub habitats, many of which have undergone marked declines in the wider environment. As plantations mature, birds more typical of forests may become established (including species of conservation priority). Where plantations are managed by rotational clear-felling followed by replanting (the most common widespread regime used in Britain currently), a diversity of growth stages can be maintained and continue to support at least some of those open and scrub habitat specialists, while some forest species can colonise the maturing stands of trees. In contrast, plantations managed through selective felling to maintain constant canopy cover may support a more diverse forest avifauna because long-term woodland cover is maintained (with a diversity of tree ages and structures at a finer scale than can develop within a clear-fell and replanting regime).
This project aims to quantify differences in the breeding bird assemblages within conifer plantations in Scotland and Wales under contrasting management regimes of clear fell rotation (CFR) and Low Intensity Sylvicultural Systems (LISS) or Constant Cover Forestry (CCF). The project will assess the predictions that: (a) LISS/CCF can support an enhanced assemblage of typical forest birds relative to CFR-managed plantations (including the more mature stands within CFR); and (b) CFR can support a broader range of open habitat and shrub specialist birds relative to LISS/CCF managed plantations (including those with well-developed regenerating shrub understoreys). The work is part of a larger project to assess the influences of woodland structure on birds and implications for biodiversity conservation.
Fieldwork is underway at sites in Scotland and Wales in the 2012 breeding season.
BTO, RSPB, Forest Research and the University of Nottingham.
Defra (with contributions from Forestry Commission).