Implications of transformation to irregular silviculture for woodland birds: A stand wise comparison in an English broadleaf woodland

Author(s): Alder, D.C., Fuller, R.J. & Marsden, S.J.

Published: August 2018  

Journal: Forest Ecology and Management Volume: 422

Digital Identifier No. (DOI): 10.1016/j.foreco.2018.04.004

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Woodland birds in Britain have undergone significant long term declines since the late 1960s, associated in particular with changes in woodland structure in general, and loss of early successional vegetation. Irregular, continuous canopy broadleaf management is a form of selective logging, very recently adopted in UK that produces woodlands with open canopies and substantial mid- and understorey growth. We examined spring and late winter bird densities, estimated using distance sampling, at 310 points in irregular, transitional (that being managed towards irregular), limited intervention, and coppice stands within a large working broad-leaf woodland in lowland southern Britain. Almost all understorey and canopy vegetation measures differed significantly across stand types. Ten of 20 species had highest spring abundance in irregular woodland, five in coppice, three in transitional, and just two in limited intervention. In winter, 5–6 species preferred each of limited intervention, irregular and transitional, while no species preferred coppice. Densities differed little across seasons except in Paridae where abundances increased in late winter during which limited intervention stands were used more by this group. Birds generally occupied similar niche positions and had similar niche breadths across seasons. Compared to under-managed woodlands, irregular silviculture in UK’s broadleaf woodlands is likely to enhance habitat quality for woodland birds, including several species of conservation concern e.g. marsh tit Poecile palustris which was twice as abundant in irregular stands as in any other stand type.
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