Action: Coppice trees
- Of three studies, one, a before-and-after study in the UK found that a population of European nightjars increased following a series of management interventions, including the coppicing of some birch trees.
- Two before-and-after studies from the UK and the USA found that the use of coppices by some bird species declined over time. The UK study also found that overall species richness decreased with age, but that some species were more abundant in older stands.
Coppicing is a management practice typical of Eurasian northern temperate zone deciduous woodlands and wood pastures, in which stems of tree species, such as hazel Corylus avellana and sweet chestnut Castanea sativa, are cut near ground level once every few years, often in defined coppice compartments. These then regrow from the cut ‘stool’ giving a sustainable yield of woody material harvested on a rotational basis.
Supporting evidence from individual studies
A before-and-after study between 1950 and 1962 in a pine-oak forest in Pennsylvania, USA (Sharp 1963), found that the local population of ruffed grouse Bonasa umbellus declined over time, as coppiced woodlands became more mature and developed thick ground cover and mid-storey canopy. Similarly, the use of coppiced woodland by grouse broods decreased over time.
A before-and-after study between 1975 and 1984 at Longbeech Wood (300.ha), Kent, England (Fuller & Moreton 1987), found that overall bird diversity decreased with coppice age and declined markedly at canopy closure. Warblers, finches and buntings were most abundant in young coppice (0-3 years of growth), whilst thrushes and tits increased in abundance with age since coppicing.
A before-and-after study at Minsmere reserve (151 ha), Suffolk, UK, in 1978-1988 (Burgess et al. 1990), found that the local population of European nightjars Caprimulgus europaeus increased following a series of management interventions, including the coppicing of some birch trees. This study is discussed in detail in ‘Clear or open patches in forests’.
- Sharp W.M. (1963) The effects of habitat manipulation and forest succession on ruffed grouse. The Journal of Wildlife Management, 27, 664-671
- Fuller R.J. & Moreton B.D. (1987) Breeding bird populations of Kentish sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa) coppice in relation to age and structure of the coppice. Journal of Applied Ecology, 24, 13-27
- Burgess N.D., Evans C.E. & Sorensen J. (1990) The management of lowland heath for nightjars at Minsmere, Suffolk, Great Britain. Journal of Environmental Management, 31, 351-359