Neighbours from Hell

We’ve been fighting threats to ancient woodland from development for over a decade, but in recent years one thing we’ve noticed is that quite often we’ll stop a development cutting down a wood and building on top of it only to find a new planning application submitted with the road, housing or quarry butting right up to the edge of the wood.

Quarrying affects neighbouring woodland

Quarrying affects neighbouring woodland – we’d like you to send us YOUR pictures of ancient woodland threatened by a bad neighbour – upload them to Flickr now: 

Research comissioned by the Woodland Trust has highlighted the potential impacts on the ecology of nearby woodland caused by adjacent development. 

It indicates negative impacts can arise from developments built too close to ancient woodland sites. Developments such as roads and motorways, commerce and industry, energy generation and supply; quarrying and mineral extraction; waste disposal facilities; and the cumulative effect of these developments all have a major impact on this fragile habitat.

We’re not against all development. But even when a road or housing estate doesn’t directly cut down trees it can have a devastating impact on the neighbouring wood.

Ancient woods have been there for centuries longer than any of us and it’s a matter of basic respect that our desire for new development allows the wood to live on.  When developments are planned much more attention needs to be paid to the effects that any new development may have on neighbouring ancient woodland. We need buffer zones between the wood and the development. Ancient woodland is irreplaceable, the UK’s equivalent of the rainforest and we must do everything we can to ensure its protection.

Watch our film about the issue here: 

Our research higlights five main impacts from adjacent developments:

1. Chemical effects: herbicides, pesticides heavy metals and nitrogen oxides can reach nearby ancient woodland through spray drift, application of road salt, contaminated water flows and gaseous pollution. These could cause reductions in species population numbers, nutrient enrichment that can alter the composition of ground flora, inhibit roots in trees, retarding growth as well as poisoning animals, reduced feeding rates and increasing susceptibility to drought, frost and leaf loss.

2. Disturbance: direct disturbance comes from nearby development causing vibration, noise and light pollution, vehicle collisions with wildlife, external activity visible from the wood, trampling of vegetation, vandalism and dumping.  Engineering works can also affect water hydrology leading to drought or flooding. This can lead to species being eliminated from woods, tree defoliation, crown dieback, and death.

3. Fragmentation: Ancient woodland is already fragmented with eight out of ten woods less than 20 hectares (50 acres) in size and nearly 50 per cent of ancient woods less than five hectares. New developments including roads and urbanisation cause the break up of habitats leading to the creation of large areas of terrain inhospitable for woodland species, increasing distances between favourable habitats that woodland species must cross to disperse, forage or breed interrupting natural habitat flows.

4. Invasion by non-native plants and species: the likelihood of ancient woodland being invaded by non-native species is increased by a range of factors associated with construction, including: soil excavation and movement, altered environmental conditions and modified hydrological processes.

5. Cumulative effects: there is a combined threat to ancient woodland from multiple developments and impact types. There are frequently long time lags before the combined impacts of chemical effects, disturbance, fragmentation and invasion by non native plants become apparent but it has serious consequences.


About Ed Pomfret

Head of campaigns at the Woodland Trust. I run our campaigning work on issues such as climate change, aviation, planning reform and woods under threat.
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One Response to Neighbours from Hell

  1. Pingback: Kingsnorth decision shows that the people have a powerful voice – but coal is still threatening ancient woodland «

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