Jess is a recent forestry graduate with a passion for PAWS! And she is much better than me at explaining the magnificence and value of these woods in her new film, produced as part of the Woodland Trust manifesto campaign.
Once upon a time in the wisdom of our forefathers, beautiful semi-natural ancient woodland was replanted with exotic conifer-type trees – often for firewood. Disturbing the natural harmony of the UK’s woodlands, these conifers marginalised the native trees within the woods and crowded out light with their quick-growing ways, starving the plants that lived there of much needed nutrients.
After a bit of head scratching and observation the penny dropped. Experts agreed that if our ancient woodlands and their rare plants continue the cycle begun by man - felling and replanting with non-native conifers - there is little hope that their fragile eco-systems will survive.
That is the story of where we get the term PAWS from (no, the P isn’t for pants on the outside either…) as it stands for Planted Ancient Woodland Sites. Well, these woods may be damaged but they are not beyond repair. Because every story needs a hero, this is where we introduce PAWS restoration. The best way to make the most of these remnants is to concentrate on the conservation of ancient woodland features rather than straight conversion to native woodland, planting native trees in and around these ancient woodland sites, gently removing the conifers and working hard to protect the remaining valuable veteran trees and specialist plants that still survive.
We have already begun restoration work on 15,800 acres of semi-natural ancient woodland since 2002 – and there is still work to be done.
Public forests that include PAWS can gain much from restoration like this. Biodioversity-rich habitats like these can be sensitively and lovingly brought back to their former glory. Don’t let the politicians PAWS for breath (see what I did there?) – for all the benefits they bring we want to see the restoration of ancient woodlands to be part of our new Parliament’s priorities.
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