Many Atlantic oakwoods on the west coast of Scotland were cleared or under-planted with conifers, particularly Sitka spruce during the second half of the 20th century, resulting in a loss of habitat of high conservation value. Many of these conifer stands have been felled recently, or will be in the near future, providing an opportunity for the restoration of oak woodlands, a priority under the UK Habitat Action Plan for Upland Oakwoods. Trials were conducted to assess methods applicable to the restoration and expansion of Atlantic oakwoods with particular reference to areas cleared of conifers. The growth, browsing incidence and survival of planted oak seedlings was studied in three habitats: (1) birch woodland, (2) oak woodland and (3) felled conifer plantations (with additional treatments of fencing and brash removal) over a 2-year period. The browsing incidence was higher for seedlings in clear-felled areas than under adjacent oak and birch canopies during the first growing season. In the clear-felled areas, brash left in lines after felling protected seedlings against browsing by herbivores, with the depth of brash affecting the probability of browsing. However, survivorship and performance over 2 years was lower for seedlings planted in the brash than for seedlings planted in the clear area between brash lines. Seedlings planted under the oak canopy were defoliated more than those in the clear-felled areas or under the birch canopy. Possible mechanisms that affect seedling survival and performance such as the recolonisation of the ground flora in the clear-felled areas are discussed with management recommendations given. 2004 Published by Elsevier B.V.
- Conifer plantations
- Upland oakwood Habitat Action Plan