The truth behind Roehoe Wood being ‘moved’ to accommodate the A46 widening.
There are a number of issues in the recent article that appeared on the BBC news website which we wish to address.
Entitled ‘Woodland Moved Out Of Road’s Path’, the article referred to an area of ancient woodland in Nottinghamshire “being dug up and moved 200 metres to make way for a new dual carriageway” as part of Highways Agency plans to widen the A46.
This process described, commonly known as ‘Habitat Translocation’, has long been regarded by the Woodland Trust as a wholly inappropriate process to carry out on ancient woodland and one lacking in scientific research and consensus.
We also understand from the Highways Agency that all the trees will be coppiced prior to their removal, and moved along with the topsoil. The coppicing process will remove the protection of the tree canopy from any woodland plants that are transferred along with the topsoil, which are often specialised to low light levels. The soil structure will be destroyed in the transferral process and will be vulnerable to erosion before the trees are regrown. It is also important to point out that the age of the trees is immaterial – ancient woodland is characterised by the continuity and stability of habitat; trees are just one component of this and can be of any age.
As such we feel that the article featuring the Highways Agency and the translocation of Roehoe Wood is misleading and factually incorrect. The Trust has asked that our response to this action could also be covered in the media in order to clear up any misunderstanding about translocation that may arise from the initial article.
The Woodland Trust statement:
A key aim of the Woodland Trust is to ensure no further loss of ancient woodland and we are opposed in principle to development which results in the degradation or destruction of this precious and unique habitat.
We do not believe that the loss of ancient woodland can be mitigated. We were therefore appalled to hear that ancient woodland has been ‘moved’ to accommodate the widening of the A46 (Widmerpool in Leicestershire), as detailed in the aforementioned article and covered on local BBC evening news.
Ancient woodland is about more than just the trees and animals that you can see. What makes ancient woodland so special are the numerous interactions between the trees and the microscopic fungi that live in the soil or the minute insects that inhabit the crevices in the bark – few (if any) of these will survive the complete removal of all the trees and the massive upheaval involved in the digging up and dumping of soil from one spot to another.
Ancient woodland is so special, so culturally and ecologically valuable because of its continuity as a habitat and its undisturbed nature. It is not possible to re-create ancient woodland, it is irreplaceable.
It is impossible and unrealistic to hope that, by digging up and relocating these previously undisturbed soils, the valuable assets of ancient woodland will be preserved. Whilst certain habitats and species are suited to translocation and enjoy some success, ancient woodland is particularly unsuited to translocation due to its longevity.
Scientific research is does not support the success of ‘habitat translocation’. The best that we can hope for in this case is the re-establishment of a relatively natural woodland – but this in itself will take 100′s of years to achieve due to the long life cycle of a woodland, and cannot equal the value of the ancient woodland lost.
Please read our formal position on ancient woodland and translocation (pdf) to find out more.