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The Decline in the Ecological Quality of the woodland, Heathland and Wetland Areas in the New Forest

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Note: My first essay at university, the essay had to be in the style of a new scientist article and include a lot of pictures. I have had to remove these pictures to decrease the file size, which accounts for the unusual spacing. It also teaches you how to write a bad appendix. The Decline in the Ecological Quality of the woodland, Heathland and Wetland Areas in the New Forest The New Forest, a landscape enjoyed by many as a wonderful break from the bustle of city life, An abundance of species rich habitats, a place of solitude, as open space to be valued and conserved for both present and future generations. To many the New forest may seem an unchanging mosaic of forest, heath and wetland interlocked with small rural settlements whose traditional character seem almost timeless. However beneath this uniquely picturesque landscape lies an environment which is both complex and forever changing, a landscape which through history, has been heavily influenced by man and his activities. The precise role of man and the influence he is having upon the natural environment often creates a complex set of management issues. These issues embody not only concerns for the environment but often have economic implications for the wider community. The New Forest is a good example of this; it has many conflicting uses and hence requires management. Figure two displays this range of habitats. Habitat Area/ha Heathland/Acid Grassland 11740 Valley Mires and Wet Heaths 238 Unenclosed Deciduous Woodland 4049 Statutory Silvicultural Enclosures 8100 Unenclosable (open to exercise of common rights) 19028 Fig2: The proportions of different habitats It is the largest area of unsown vegetation in lowland Britain. Each habitat is affected differently by different uses, which in the past may have caused a decline in their ecological quality, it is both these uses and the management strategies associated with them that will be the focus of this article. ...read more.


Management of Woodland The New Forest Committee in their Strategy for the New Forest recognises that 'Grazing in open forest by sheep and cattle has a strong influence on the age regeneration and species type of the vegetation' They also recognise that the numbers and proportions of ponies to cattle have a significant effect on the ecology of the forest. It refers to 'The Lingworth Report' on grazing. It suggests that pony and cattle premium schemes and marking fees should be used as a mechanism for influencing numbers turned out. Recent research however has shown that social and cultural factors play a greater role in decision making. The report recognises that commoning is poor source of income for commoners and that restrictions on landuse and stock numbers may have profound effects on their livelihoods and the local economy. The Forestry commissions policy is 'to conserve woodland as an essential component of the traditional character of the forest'. Part of the 'New Forest review' recommends that 'The maximum feasible area of native area of broardleaved component should be grown on the longest feasible rotations, and the possibility of restoring some conifer plantations to broardleave should be investigated'. Such recommendations are encouraging for conservation however the actual implementation may be more difficult to put into practice, while the affects of any recent measures are too early to assess. Unfortunately it is difficult for the Forestry Commission to assess the extent of deterioration or have any control over development in the privately owned forests. This is identified in the 'Strategy for the New Forest', it recognises 'Changes in the design and siting of new planting, changes in management practices and species composition and loss of hedgerows all have important implications for the forest as a whole' Indeed comparison of the area today to that recorded in the New Forest by English Nature during 1994 shows a reduction in quality of the landscape. ...read more.


Low levels in the Rivers and streams have been attributed to a lowering of the water table by boreholes and streams. Management of Wetlands In relation to rivers and streams, the 'Environment Agency' has developed a 'Catchment management plan' for the New Forest. Which is concerned with the future management of these areas. The recommended actions associated with this management I am unaware of. In relation to mires the Strategy aims to: 'Restore and enhance damaged valley mires' [RA3.8b]0 This involves techniques to slow the flow of water restoring levels of water to how they were before drainage. This is achieved by installing small dams along small ditches in an attempt to drain the mire. It tries to mimic natural channel blocking; it is hoped that this will halt headwald erosion. Deep channels have developed in some places, which are a hazard to livestock and damaging to the mire. 'The Forestry Commission' has been aiming to infill these with local material to hope that they blend in with surrounding heathland vegetation. Again many of these important areas of conservation occur in the Crown land i.e.- Mires. In one of its recommended actions the Forestry Commission work with land managers and advise them in areas where conservation may not be the land managers highest priority. In Relation to this the strategy aims to: 'Identify wetland features important to the traditional character of the New Forest and work with landowners/land managers to secure their conservation.' [RA3.8a], see also RA3.3c0 It is clear now that the New possess a very complex range of management issues and that successful management will require great co-operation between all groups who have an interest for one reason or another in the New Forest. Fig 5:Mire restoration through the bulding of small dams some times made out of thatch to mimic natrual channel blocking and encourage infill Fig 6: Monitoring peat. Appendix: http://www.aard-vark.com/forest/animal.htm http://www.jncc.gov.uk/idt/sac/sitelist/sitename/data/S12557.htm http://www.geodata.soton.ac.uk/newforest/public/background/tubbwet.html http://www.wetlands.agro.nl/ramsar_database/Ramsar_Dir/United_Kingdom_pt3/Uk066d99.txt 'The New Scientist' 1982 September Resources for figures Fig1: Southampton university geography research. Fig2:http://www.hants.gov.uk/newforest/nf_digital/archive/may99/photos/photo1.htm#Top Fig3:http://www.geodata.soton.ac.uk/newforest/public/background/tubbwet.html Fig4: Southampton university geography research pictures. Fig5&6:http://www.geocities.com/newforestlife/mire.html ...read more.

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