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Case Study: Nower Wood

Temperate Deciduous Forest in the UK


Nower Wood is approximately 80 acres of ancient woodland sitting on a clay cap at the
head of a dry valley and is adjoined by a further 25 acres belonging to the National Trust.
The wood is mentioned in the Doomsday Survey and the core of the wood has remained as
woodland since then and consists mainly of Oak and Sweet Chestnut with Hazel coppice in
places.
Nower Wood is a Site of Nature Conservation Importance (SNCI), which lies on a geological outcrop
with strata of different rocks and soils. The outcrop is capped clay with flints, the upper chalk is
exposed in sinkholes on the north side and lies just below the surface of the car park.

Management is aimed at maximising the reserve's educational value for


children and adults whilst keeping disturbance to the wildlife at a
minimum.

On site:
The predominant habitat at Nower Wood is ancient oak woodland which may date back as far as the
Domesday Book. In addition to the oak woodland and a few scattered Scots pine, the reserve has
been managed to create and/or maintain hazel coppice, a small area of chalk grassland, a small
heathland glade, butterfly ride and ponds. Managed in the past for game and timber combined with
the more recent conservation management, has resulted in a mosaic of habitats.
Important trees are oak and sweet chestnut interspersed with birch. Coppiced hazel is present and
the north-east boundary is a thick double hedge rhododendron avenue. The ponds are all artificial
and now used for pond dipping.
A number of birds species can be seen, including sparrow hawk, stock dove, woodcock, woodpecker
(two species) and wood warbler. There is also an assortment of tits as well as tree creepers and
nuthatches. Adders are occasionally seen, whilst roe deer, badgers and foxes have all been recorded.
Heather moorland area. Planted and maintained to reduce competing species. The Heather grows
on a sandy soil outcrop, ideal growing conditions for heather. The site is managed in sections in
order for any species to move to an untouched section whilst

Coppicing in areas of the woodland creates gaps in the canopy allowing secondary succession. The
Hazel trees are encouraged to grow multiple branches in this manner and will increase their
productivity whilst allowing other species to succeed. Mostly this area has been covered in bracken
In other areas of the site there is a heavy cover of bracken. This is periodically but back as this very
competitive species can block out the floor and reduce species diversity. In addition it creates a very
acidic soil which many plants cannot tolerate. Areas which are not cleared do benefit in the spring
from being ideal habitats for Bluebells.
Part of the site when purchased had larch trees planted. These were cleared and the area was
succeeded by silver birch. These trees are of the same age and dominate this area which will reduce
species diversity, however many will succumb to a common fungal disease and therefore more long
living species such as oak and beech will begin to take over in these gaps created and therefore
eventually the site will achieve its climatic climax community.

What is coppicing? This has been the common type of ancient woodland management at Nower
Wood and has taken place over the past 400 years. It is the process in which young tree stems are
cut down to either a low level or even right down to the ground to prevent them from overgrowing.
Coppicing allows vigorous growth of new shoots, and as a result trees and shrubs which are cut
down this way, can produce shoots that grow over 30cm in a week and a coppiced tree can live
many times longer than if the tree had not been cut down at all. This is due to the fact that when
trees are coppiced, then more amounts of light can reach to the ground floor than when it was being
blocked out by the tall uncoppiced trees. The coppice cycle lasts for about 10-15 years.
Woodland structure: Towards the most top part of the woodland, is the canopy layer. This layer is
composed mainly of the largest trees in the woodland, which shade the layers below them and not
allowing much light to pass through the canopy layer. The most common examples of trees found in
this layer are Oak and Beech trees.
Beneath the canopy layer is the shrub layer. Plant species which can be found in this area are Hazel,
the Hawthorn tree and Holly- this has adapted to grow under the canopy layer as its colour is
evergreen (more chloroplasts). This layer consists of plants which contain multiple stems.
Following directly beneath the shrub layer, the ground or field layer can be found. Plant species
found in this area are ferns, sedges, honeysuckle, bluebells, grasses and mosses. In order for the
plants in this area to survive, they need to have special adaptations.
The forest floor is the lowest layer of the woodland. It is mainly composed of humus, litter, topsoil,
branches and dead leaves. This makes this layer suitable for woodlice and earthworms to live in.

Management and Education


The site is carefully monitored to assess the impact of educational groups on the wildlife and species
diversity. Conflicts arise where for example pond dipping activities are reducing species diversity or
in areas where trampling is occurring. Constant assessment of the impacts is conducted and
mitigation of risks is instigated.

The site is under constant threat from outside activities. There are conflicts with the neighbouring
golf course and currently a big issue for the centre is the route of the cycling for the Olympic Games
in 2012. The road which accesses and borders the site will be part of the cycle route and there are
plans to trim back all the overhanging trees and hedges in order for television helicopters to gain
good footage. This will seriously interfere with the wildlife corridors particularly of the heavily
protected dormouse which requires branches to touch in order for safe movement between
locations. This possible risk could create isolated habitats which may not be large enough to sustain
certain populations.

The Educational Facilities


The wood was purchased in 1970 and a wooden building was erected in 1972 to act as a
classroom and a teacher warden was appointed to both teach and look after the wood. Since
then the facilities have been vastly improved and there are now two classrooms and office
facilities for the permanent, seasonal staff and volunteers. Great thought has been put in to
the design of the buildings and facilities to provide an environmentally friendly operation.
Heating is provided by a wood fired boiler which circulates hot water through a conventional
heating system. The toilets use grey water for flushing and the washing water is heated by
solar energy backed up by electricity from the mains.
This study can be used under the syllabus heading:
Ecosystems in the British Isles over time
Succession and climatic climax- hydrosere
Temperate Deciduous Woodland- characteristics of a climatic climax

AND
Ecosystem Issues on a local scale: impact of human activity
One case study of ecological conservation area