We often get asked why, as an environmental charity that plants trees, we can sometimes be seen to cut them down. The answer is simple…it’s about woodland management. So why then does a woodland need to be managed – surely trees just grow by themselves? Well, yes they do, but trees are just like us humans. A baby will grow without love and attention, but he/she probably won’t grow into a healthy, well balanced adult. It’s the same for trees, a sapling with nurture and good management has a greater chance of maturing into a strong, healthy tree.

When we plant a new woodland, we expect to lose an average of 10% of the saplings we plant, through natural causes. So we plant extra saplings to take this into account. After 10-15 years, we thin the trees, removing the less healthy ones, giving the stronger ones greater access to nutrients and space to grow. This thinning process also reduces the canopy cover of the trees, letting more light in, which then encourages different plant species to flourish on the woodland floor. The more plant species there are within the woodland, the more diverse animal species it will support and provide homes for - one mature oak tree can host up to 500 different species! There is also natural regeneration in a healthy woodland, with new trees springing up from the seeds that fall and germinate.

So to create a healthy woodland, management is essential.

To sum up the benefits of woodland management there are:

Economic benefits as the wood cut down can be used for timber and fuel. This is a sustainable and ethical way to produce timber, not the mass cutting down of woodlands and forests that we see around the world. Also, well-seasoned (good quality and dry) wood is a low cost and efficient fuel with less harmful emissions. At the Forest we have a growing firewood enterprise, where we process the wood we’ve cut and then sell it – with all the profits going back into the Charity to help us to look after our woodlands and plant more trees.

Social benefits arise from managed woodlands as they are easy to access, so give lots of opportunities for recreation for the local community.

Environmental benefits as a managed woodland produces far greater biodiversity. Every species has a key role to play in our planet’s eco-system, so the more plant and animal life our woodlands support – the better it is for all of us!

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