The effects of management on the ground flora of ancient woodland, Brigsteer Park Wood, Cumbria, England

  • Published source details Barkham J.P. (1992) The effects of management on the ground flora of ancient woodland, Brigsteer Park Wood, Cumbria, England. Biological Conservation, 60, 167-187.


The National Trust took over management of Brigsteer Park Wood, an ancient woodland on limestone in Cumbria (National Grid ref. SD 4887 and 4888; northwest England) in 1950. A policy of replacement of old coppice-with-standards, with trees of value for timber (including beech Fagus sylvatica, not native to the site, and other hardwoods) was instated. Objections to this resulted in some areas being set aside for non-intervention or for small scale coppicing. In 1987, the management policy was revised with the intention being to restore the wood to as near natural state as possible but to maintain several coppiced areas. This paper describes changes to ground flora in response to plantation forestry and other management in the woodland over 18 years.

From 1969 to 1987, ground flora vegetation in 50 permanent 4 m² quadrats (in a representative selection of different site-types according to physical and management characteristics) was monitored. Percentage cover of species was estimated by eye in spring/summer. In 1971, six 1 m² quadrats were established to monitor in more detail any changes in wild daffodil Narcissus pseudonarcissus abundance following tree thinning.
Management was categorized as: 1) coppice sites (four plots; coppiced in about 1961 and 1972); undisturbed sites (21 plots, open yew Taxus baccata or oak Quercus- hazel Corylus avellana with ash Fraxinus excelsior woodland on limestone pavement/scree); 3) cleared and replanted sites (20 plots); 4) disturbed sites (5 plots, partly shaded roadside verges; 6 plots, light increases due to adjacent clearing, herbicide spraying and replanting).

Responses were somewhat variable but some overall trends were apparent. In undisturbed areas, vegetation cover increased in response to increased canopy openness, and cover decreased in areas subject to tree planting due to canopy closure, over time. Species lost from quadrats were mostly ruderal and grassland plants characteristic of more open habitats.
Shade-tolerant species characteristic of woodland were overall little affected, but two, wood anemone Anemone nemorosa and dog’s mercury Mercurialis perennis significantly increase in average cover; coppicing appeared beneficial. Shoot counts of wild daffodil highlighted from 1973, an overall exponential decline in shoot numbers of about a 4%/year; in the one coppiced site with daffodils that was monitored however, shoot numbers generally increased. It is concluded that coppicing is likely to be effective in maintaining the existing ground flora.
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