Broadleaved and mixed woodlands

Context

Broadleaved and mixed woodland is characterised by vegetation dominated by trees that are more than 5m high when mature, which form a distinct, although sometimes open, canopy with a canopy cover of greater than 20%.  It includes stands of both native and non-native broadleaved tree species, and of yew Taxus baccata, where the percentage cover of these trees in the stand exceeds 20% of the total tree cover.  Stands of broadleaved, mixed and yew woodland may be either ancient or recent woodland and either semi-natural arising from natural regeneration of trees, or planted.
 
Scrub vegetation, where the woody component tends to be mainly shrubs, which are usually less than 5m high, including juniper Juniperus communis, and carr (woody vegetation on fens and bog margins), is included in this reporting category if the woody species form a canopy cover of greater than 30% and the patch size of scrub is greater than 0.25ha.  Exceptions to this include dwarf gorse Ulex minor and western gorse U. gallii which are included in the Heathlands reporting category, montane willow scrub which is included in the Montane grasslands and heaths reporting category, and scrub on sand dunes and shingle which is included in Dunes, shingle and machair reporting category.  
 
SSSIs can be notified if they qualify under criteria outlined in Chapter 2 Woodlands of the Guidelines for Selection of Biological SSSIs.  In Northern Ireland, ASSIs are selected on a very similar basis – the Guidelines for the Selection of Biological ASSIs in Northern Ireland is an addendum to the SSSI guidelines rather than an alternative. 
 
 

Summary statistics

  SAC A/SSSI Total
Favourable condition 25% 45% 43%
Main monitoring coverage E, S, W, NI E, S, NI  
Reported assessments 198 1644 1842
Completeness of assessments 87% unknown  
Distribution of features     UK
 

Number of assessments reported by country and site type

Country SAC SSSI/ASSI
England 99 1279
Scotland 55 334
Wales 33 0
Northern Ireland 11 31
United Kingdom 198 1644
 

Natura features

List of Natura 2000 interest features within this reporting category

Interest feature name  
Formal name Informal name No. of assessments reported Total no. of features % assessed
Asperulo-Fagetum beech forests Beech forests on neutral to rich soils 12 12 100%
Juniperus communis formations on heaths or calcareous grasslands Juniper on heaths or calcareous grasslands 16 17 94%
Taxus baccata woods of the British Isles Yew-dominated woodland 14 14 100%
Tilio-Acerion forests of slopes, screes and ravines Mixed woodland on base-rich soils associated with rocky slopes 44 50 88%
Alluvial forests with Alnus glutinosa and Fraxinus excelsior (Alno-Padion, Alnion incanae, Salicion albae) Alder woodland on floodplains 33 37 89%
Atlantic acidophilous beech forests with Ilex and sometimes also Taxus in the shrublayer (Quercion robori-petraeae or Ilici-Fagenion) Beech forests on acid soils 7 7 100%
Bog woodland Bog woodland 6 10 60%
Old acidophilous oak woods with Quercus robur on sandy plains Dry oak-dominated woodland 6 7 86%
Old sessile oak woods with Ilex and Blechnum in the British Isles Western acidic oak woodland 57 70 81%
Stable xerothermophilous formations with Buxus sempervirens on rock slopes (Berberidion p.p.) Natural box scrub 1 1 100%
Sub-Atlantic and medio-European oak or oak-hornbeam forests of the Carpinion betuli Oak-hornbeam forests 2 2 100%
 
Natura 2000 comprises Special Protection Areas (under the Birds Directive) and Special Areas for Conservation (under the Habitats and Species Directive). The list presented here includes all of the qualifying interest features under these Directives, and shows the proportion of these features for which a condition assessment has been made.
 

SSSI features

List of SSSI and ASSI interest features in this reporting category

Interest feature name  
Formal name Informal name No. of assessments reported
Broadleaved, mixed and yew woodland - lowland Broadleaved, mixed and yew woodland - lowland 1048
Broadleaved, mixed and yew woodland - upland Broadleaved, mixed and yew woodland - upland 231
Juniper scrub Juniper scrub 7
Lowland mixed broadleaved woodland Lowland mixed broadleaved woodland 9
Lowland wood pasture and parkland Lowland wood pasture and parkland 1
Scrub Scrub 22
Upland birch woodland Upland birch woodland 57
Upland mixed ash woodland Upland mixed ash woodland 75
Upland oak woodland Upland oak woodland 153
Wet woodland Alluvial forests with Alnus glutinosa and Fraxinus excelsior (Alno-Padion, Alnion incanae, Salicion albae) 1
Wet woodland Bog woodland 1
Wet woodland Wet woodland 37
Wood pasture and parkland Wood pasture and parkland 2
 
This list has not been fully standardised at a UK level yet. It is intended to show the principal constituent "feature types" for this reporting category.
 

Maps - distribution

UK distibution of reported interest features

Distribution of reported interest features.

Map showing the locations of the 10km squares in which at least one condition assessment has been reported. It does not show features that have not yet been assessed.

 

Maps - Natura

Distribution of SAC features showing assessments of favourability Condition of SAC features, with those currently reported as unfavourable-recovering shown as favourable
Current condition of SAC features
Distribution of SAC features showing assessments of favourability (where unfavourable-recovering is counted as unfavourable).
Condition of SAC features, with those currently reported as unfavourable-recovering shown as favourable
The implication of the unfavourable-recovering condition assessments is that at some point in the future these features should become favourable. This map shows the effect of that recovery by counting the favourable and unfavourable-recovering assessments together.

 

IMPORTANT NOTE: we do not have information on the timescale of the predicted recovery, which may be influenced by many past, natural and human related factors. A sustained sympathetic management regime is more likely to result in favourable condition being attained.

Key: Proportion of assessed features on 10km squares that are favourable:

Natura map legend - Key: proportion of assessed features on 10km squares that are favourable

 

Details of how these maps were produced

 

Maps - SSSI

Current condition of SSSI/ASSI features Condition of SSSI/ASSI features, with those currently reported as unfavourable-recovering shown as favourable
Current condition of SSSI/ASSI features
Distribution of SSSI/ASSI features showing assessments of favourability (where unfavourable-recovering is counted as unfavourable).
Condition of SSSI/ASSI features, with those currently reported as unfavourable-recovering shown as favourable
The implication of the unfavourable-recovering condition assessments is that at some point in the future these features should become favourable. This map shows the effect of that recovery by counting the favourable and unfavourable-recovering assessments together.

 

IMPORTANT NOTE: we do not have information on the timescale of the predicted recovery, which may be influenced by many past, natural and human related factors. A sustained sympathetic management regime is more likely to result in favourable condition being attained.

Key: Proportion of assessed features on 10km squares that are favourable:

SSSI map legend - Proportion of assessed features on 10km squares that are favourable

 

Details of how these maps were produced

 

Condition summary

Reporting category condition summary on Natura 2000 sites and SSSI

This lists the 10 different condition assessments and presents a bar chart showing the number of features within the SSSI series and the Natura 2000 series (either SPA for bird features or SAC for features other than birds). Note that for Natura 2000 we are able to estimate the number of features that have not been assessed during the 6 year reporting period - we are unable to do this for SSSI/ASSI because we do not have an overall list of notified interest features for these designations.

 

NB favourable unclassified and unfavourable unclassified have been used in this first six year cycle to get around difficulties in identifying trends in condition as common standards monitoring is implemented. It is expected that these categories will not be used for subsequent assessments of a feature.

 

Condition assessment - Natura 2000 features

The number and proportion of assessments for Natura 2000 (SAC and SPA) interest features falling into each of the condition categories
The number and proportion of assessments for Natura 2000 (SAC and SPA) interest features falling into each of the condition categories. Note that the �unfavourable� category includes all reports of unfavourable condition except �unfavourable recovering� which is shown as a separate segment.
 

Condition assessment - SSSI features

The number and proportion of assessments for SSSI/ASSI interest features falling into each of the condition categories
The number and proportion of assessments for SSSI/ASSI interest features falling into each of the condition categories. Note that the �unfavourable� category includes all reports of unfavourable condition except �unfavourable recovering� which is shown as a separate segment.
 

Adverse activities

The number of interest features where an activity has been reported as being implicated in the "unfavourable" condition of a feature
The number of interest features where an activity has been reported as being implicated in the "unfavourable" condition of a feature. More than one adverse activity may be reported for each feature.
 

Management measures

The measures summary bar chart lists the management measures relevant to the reporting category
For each "measure" the chart shows the number of interest features where that measure has been taken on a site to improve or maintain the condition of an interest feature. More than one measure may be reported for each feature assessed.
 

 

Interpretation

43% of broadleaved woodland features reported are in favourable condition.  This is above the average for terrestrial habitats, about the average for all habitat features, and below the average for all features combined.  45% of A/SSSI and 25% of SAC features reported are in favourable condition.  22% of A/SSSI and 35% of SAC features reported are unfavourable recovering.  Much is being done to improve the condition of woodlands, although it will take a considerable period for many of them to become favourable again.
 
A small number of sites in England were recorded as partially destroyed.  In almost all cases this involves marginal tipping, or the construction of small structures (e.g. electricity sub-stations) on the site and tends to have happened some while ago. 
 
England shows a much higher proportion of features reported in unfavourable-recovering condition compared to unfavourable-declining condition than Scotland.  The following may contribute to this difference:
 
  • A genuine reflection of the differences between the large-scale unenclosed landscapes of the uplands and the lowlands: Scotland has more of the former.
  • Scottish woods tend to be larger and to be treated less intensively, but at the same time the threats to them may be more inherent in the nature of the whole landscape (for example extensive deer browsing); the smaller English woods may, therefore, be more amenable to management action that will allow the site to move into the unfavourable-recovering category.
 
Many different adverse activities have been associated with woodlands.  Some of the more commonly identified ones are: 
 
  • Forestry management: This covers a wide range of activities, including both over and under management; failure to remove rhododendron or to put up a fence to reduce grazing, or clearance of trees and dead-wood removal.  It is more frequently recorded in England than in Scotland, in part because there are more English sites where positive management to improve structure, such as coppicing, is desirable.  However, even so, the biggest single problem is lack of effort in removal of non-native species.  There is, therefore, overlap with the invasive species category. 
  • Over-grazing: This is strongly associated with upland woods where the main issue is often stock (stock plus deer in places).  There is also increasing concern about the impact of deer in the lowlands, reflected in concentrations of sites where this is listed in East Anglia, the East Midlands and parts of the South-east.
  • Under-grazing:  Many of the instances where this has been recorded are where trees and scrub are invading grassland associated with the site which would be better kept open.  In some cases, the activity may be affecting a relatively minor part of the site, rather than the main interest feature.  For example, in some cases, lack of grazing was identified as a problem for fen elements on the edge of the woodland, but they are recorded as affecting the woodland because part of the area is woodland.  There are some instances of parkland where increasing the grazing is desirable to maintain the 'woodland interest'.  A few sites in Scotland were also classed as 'under-grazed' where there were long-standing exclosures that should now be opened out to allow some animals back in.
  • Invasive species:  These are widespread across all countries.  The main species involved are rhododendron/laurel, sycamore, beech (outside native range), exotic conifers, and, locally, Himalayan balsam. 

 

Juniper
 
29% of the A/SSSI and 31% of the SAC juniper Juniperus communis features reported are in favourable condition.  A further 43% of A/SSSI and 31% of SAC features reported are unfavourable-recovering.  These results raise serious concerns that features at more than two-thirds of sites are failing to meet favourable condition.
 
The reported activity that has had the greatest impact contributing to unfavourable condition on juniper features is over-grazing, though under-grazing is also an important impact, as is forestry.  There is still a need to organise better the timing and intensity of grazing.  The reporting of measures taken to address unfavourable condition indicates that management agreements/schemes and agri-environment schemes are in place on many sites.  However, it is not yet known how long it may take to return juniper features to favourable condition.