RSPB research in Scotland suggests that native woodland plantations could have overall benefits for some breeding birds - but care should be taken not to squeeze out important species of open ground.
The study, published in the journal Biological Conservation, looked at the breeding bird communities in native woodland plantations and nearby open moorland in Highland Perthshire.
Overall, more bird species were present in native woodland plantations relative to moorland and the number of species increased with the age, height and cover of the woodland present.
Many songbird species were also more common in woodland than on moorland, but the Meadow Pipit, which favours open moorland, is expected to lose out through woodland creation. Meadow Pipits are of conservation concern due to population declines and are listed as globally Near-Threatened by the IUCN. The UK supports globally important breeding populations of the Meadow Pipit and some other open-ground species including the Eurasian Curlew, so impacts from woodland creation on these species should be minimised.
Researchers concluded “Native reforestation of open ground offers net gains in bird species richness but could disbenefit open-ground birds including those of conservation concern. Where retention of open-ground species is desired, landscape-scale reforestation should consider both woodland and open-ground wildlife.” This new research therefore emphasizes that serious thought must be given to how to minimize impacts on open-ground biodiversity of high conservation importance.
Posted on: 04 March 2020