The CREOS Management Plan was unveiled in November 2018 at a presentation by the Director of Conservation at London Wildlife Trust, Mathew Frith, and their Conservation Ecologist, Mike Waller.
The plan contains an easy to use calendar of conservation and management activities, some of which will require professional tree work and all of which will improve biodiversity across CREOS. Here’s some background to the plan:
Ancient & Secondary Woodland
What’s the difference between an ancient and a secondary woodland? Well, if you were to enter CREOS from Queens Wood via the Woodland Walk the answer to that question is – about a metre, but in biodiversity terms the difference is vast.
The ancient oak and hornbeam of Queens Wood houses great biodiversity because it is structurally varied with trees of all ages making lots of different habitats for a huge variety of species. Large breaks in the mature oak canopy encourage a rich understory and ground flora, which in turn forms a nursery area for the mature trees of tomorrow.
Contrast this to the secondary woodland of CREOS. That is woodland that has developed on previously cleared ground. In the Crouch End Open Space we have a closed out canopy formed by evenly-aged trees that are, in places, very densely packed and tall because they have shot up together competing for sunlight, and beneath them, in the virtual perma-shade, very little variety.
Why Does This Matter?
Many people might expect that secondary woodland will become ancient woodland eventually with all the biodiversity improvements outlined above. Unfortunately this is not the case. Often secondary woodland fails. Trees of uniform age can all die off or get blown over together leaving a huge clearing which – you’ve guessed it, gradually becomes colonised in the exact same way as before. It may surprise you to learn that the major player in the creation of biodiverse ancient woodland has actually been human and animal activities. Back in the day, woodlands were a vital resource which were heavily used for multiple purposes: timber for building and fuel; vegetation and fodder for large herbivores and grazing animals.
Managing Secondary Woodland
Over centuries the effect of all this disturbance and activity was huge variation. Many woods today, like ours at CREOS, are untouched because the general perception of natural spaces is that they should be left alone. However, managing secondary woodland is actually the best way of ensuring the woodland survives and, in a happy coincidence, it also increases biodiversity. Whether it’s careful selective thinning to create significant gaps in the canopy promoting natural regeneration, or coppicing hazel (most usually) on a two to four year cycle to produce fantastic variation, woodland management techniques create mixed woodland with a varied structure and tree age, which positively affects biodiversity surprisingly quickly. As an example, the recent reintroduction of coppicing practices in nearby Coldfall Woods increased the number of ground flora species present from 48 to 156 in just one year.
Making A Difference
So, when you hear depressing news about dramatic declines in biodiversity and think ‘well I can’t do anything about that’ – think again! Being a CREOS member, making a donation, or turning up to volunteer on a work day, means more woodland management tasks can be done. Spreading the word about the benefits of woodland management, especially for improving biodiversity in secondary woodland, means that more local people will get to understand that a spot of pruning can bring woodland wildlife flooding in – a very positive thing for us all.