Finding Land for Woodland
We can define a set of criteria for land where we think Woodland (areas bigger than 0.5 hectares) could be created – for example: it should be on marginal moderate and poor quality land that avoids arable agriculture, protected areas and biodiverse grassland. We need a logical way of doing this that preserves what we value most and which replaces what we won’t miss (too much) and value least. We can’t get away from the fact that creating areas of woodland greater than half a hectare displaces something else. We can’t create woodland and keep everything the same, although we can mix things with agroforestry, see below. Given our set of woodland criteria we can use a geographic information system (GIS) to work out whether such places actually exist and where they are. The methodology for doing this is described on the Finding Land for Woodland page and so are the results.
To double woodland cover in the Chew Valley people have to plant trees, or land has to be given the opportunity to regenerate tree cover naturally. The people who are going to enable this to happen are the land owners, big and small. Land owners are naturally concerned with their own land and may not spend much time thinking about it within the broader landscape (although some do!). To implement the woodland opportunity maps on this web site and to get the full benefits of it needs some joined up thinking. Therefore there has to be a conversation with and between land owners.
It is not always obvious who owns a piece of land and community based groups Chew Valley Plants Trees has been exploring ways to do this and to start local conversations about tree planting and landscape. A tool to help do this has been to create parish maps of exactly where the possibilities are and what the options might be in terms of woodland and also agroforestry. You can read more about Finding Landowners here.
Assessing Agroforestry Potential
Agroforestry is an extensive open canopy system spread out across a landscape rather than concentrated into a possibly closed canopy woodland which makes mapping it difficult. Whilst the existing landscape does include individual trees and small groups of trees in hedgerows (see below) they are generally not an active part of a productive system but rather boundary markers and features. Lone trees in fields are frequently the only sign of a long lost hedgerow – for example the one to the right near ground in the photograph below. The potential role of agroforestry in the Chew Valley landscape is explored on the Finding Land for Agroforestry pages.
Finding Land for Small Woods and Hedgerows
The often quoted figures for woodland cover in the UK and England of 13% and 10% cover respectively, do not include the small woods less than 0.5 hectares or the individual trees in fields or standards in hedgerows, or the hedgerows themselves – all of which are important. These are what may come to mind when we think about trees and woodland but they are separate entities to ‘Woodland’. What is more we don’t really know very well how many there are or where they are. So a first step is mapping them to find out what we have got.
You can read more about mapping small woods and hedgerows on the Finding Land for Small Woods & Hedgerows page.
The scheme here for identifying places to create woodland identifies marginal land that is not protected and which is grass rather than arable land. Known important sites are excluding including good quality semi-improved grasslands, which may have some biodiversity value. However, our knowledge of the quality of grasslands is limited and it is important to check through either local knowledge or a field survey on the biodiversity value of permanent grassland before converting it to woodland. Traditional meadows are managed differently to “improved” grassland and it may be that we can look at the timing of when grassland is mown to get a better indication of grassland type and in turn biodiversity value. This is, however, something of a research topic.