Ecology, history, management and conservation of the multipurpose Forest of Wyre
AbstractThere were three principal aims to this study: to provide an accurate historical account of the management of Wyre Forest over the last millennium and to interpret these events by analysing existing forest vegetation; to describe in detail the phytosociological nature of the forest and determine a range of environmental factors which influenced these vegetation patterns; and to suggest an effective conservation strategy on the basis of the findings of this study and an understanding of conservation science. Scant historical records coupled with a more detailed contemporary oral account identified three periods in the history of Wyre: the Medieval times when the forest was managed as a Chase and deer parks under the ownership of the Mortimer family; the 16th century to the turn of the 20th century- a very active period of rural industrial development, interrupted by deforestation; and the last 90 years when traditional woodland practices were abandoned and modern silvicultural management was introduced with new plantings. Traditional coppicing in Wyre involved both frequent cutting of small wood and the careful singling of chosen stems over a prolonged rotation of 70 to 125 years to provide for the garden centres, tanneries, mines and steel industries. Charcoal was a major product of the forest. By analysing stem density and diameter data, and by measuring the proportion of birch in the wood four main structural stands were statistically recognized. These stands related to past and present silvicultural practices. Significant differences in oak stem densities between woodland sites reflected more recent attention paid by foresters to local soil variations. A vegetation analysis identified six stand-types although considerable floristic grading across community boundaries suggested a broad complex western oak-wood association. Ordination analysis recognized three factors partially responsible for the plant assemblages: complex soil patterns; a long history of management; and the impact of intensive browsing by deer. In particular, recent coppicing significantly altered plant assemblages by promoting less typical forest stand-types. Furthermore, a comparative analysis of coupe and high forest vegetation indicated a significant difference in structural heterogeneity brought about by deer browsing pressure. Greater heights of birch and oak seedlings, and bramble were apparent in the enclosed coupes. Conservation management should aim to achieve a balance between coppicing and the problems of edge-effect created by this activity by promoting small randomly spaced glades throughout the forest which are cut on a more natural rotation cycle. Deer numbers should be governed according to the extent of damage they exert on the forest vegetation. Both plantation and natural forest could be managed on a selective system. Recreational activities should be controlled through capping and zoning.
CitationHobson, P.R. (1997). Ecology, history, management and conservation of the multipurpose Forest of Wyre. University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton
PublisherUniversity of Wolverhampton
TypeThesis or dissertation
DescriptionA thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the University of Wolverhampton for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy
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