Wood Wise: woodland management for sun-loving butterflies

Image: northeastwildlife.co.ukOur latest issue of Wood Wise focuses on woodland management for sun-loving butterflies. The case studies look at a number of butterflies of conservation concern, such as the pearl-bordered fritillary and Duke of Burgundy, and a range of management techniques, including coppicing and landscape scale conservation.

Woodland offers a complexity of structure that supports a wide variety of species, perhaps more than any other terrestrial habitat in the UK. Butterflies are among the most iconic of these, yet many have suffered severe declines in recent times. This has been linked to a drop off in the use of woods and trees by humans.

A number of organisations are working hard to support woodland butterfly populations, including Butterfly Conservation and the Woodland Trust. They have developed monitoring and management approaches that are showing success – find out more.

To read current and past issues of Wood Wise follow this link. If you would like a pdf version or would like to be added to the subscription list please email your request to Conservation@woodlandtrust.org.uk

Kay Haw, Conservation Team


About Kay Haw

Assistant Conservation Adviser, Woodland Trust. Nature is my passion, especially woods and trees which are just amazing elements of life. One day (soon) I hope we humans learn to work in harmony with Mother Earth.
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5 Responses to Wood Wise: woodland management for sun-loving butterflies

  1. Richard Green says:

    Very interesting article. I own a small woodland in Hampshire, around 7 acres, which is part of a much larger woodland. It is predominantly ash and oak standards with an underwood of hazel, holly and hawthorn. I have been coppicing the hazel which has probably not been cut for 25 years, and this is substantially increasing the light to the floor of the woodland. This is a long job as the hazel stems are in many cases around 8m high and 150ml in diameter. I am sure there would also be benefits from removing some of the standards but with the threat of ash dieback I hesitate to do that.

    Now that there is more light on the floor, should I be considering introducing plants which attract butterflies or just let nature take care of it? I would appreciate your views as I am keen to get to the right balance which encourages all wildlife into the wood and is a ‘special place’ for my grandchildren to learn to appreciate nature.

    Richard Green

  2. I agree with Roderick that it is an excellent article. I must admit to a certain (hopefully not misplaced) optimism with regard to woodland management. From my own observation and from talking to my wood fuel suppliers, there does seem to be an increasing demand amongst woodland owners for sustainable management. Whether this is from a desire to promote the health of the woods or to gain some income from the by-products isn’t clear (wood fuel prices are rising along with demand), but it is happening. There is also an increase in the number of woodland management courses offered by local colleges like Ashham Bryan and Bishop Burton and I know of two young people who are taking these. Hopefully, management will also include access and amenity considerations whereby private owners feel able to offer these to the public.

    • Kay Haw says:

      Thank you for your comment Pete. Hopefully this current focus on our woods will ensure their future health and a return to their importance in human culture.

  3. Roderick Leslie says:

    Dear Kay,

    What a brilliant report – well done WT, its partners & its funders. The report’s big message is that butterflies need woodland management – and that can still be a big problem. Many people still see tree felling as a bad thing – we all love trees and sadly (you only have to follow this blog) felling does too often equal destruction – but not in these butterfly woods where letting the light in is saving some of our most fragile and beautiful ancient woodland species.

    I know a lot of people – including conservation organisations see doing nothing as the safe option – I hope this report will get people to think again and realise what we are losing as woodlands that have in many cases been managed sustainably for centuries – even millennia – get darker and darker – and the rising value of the ultimate low carbon fuel, wood, means it doesn’t have to cost so much to manage – bringing back butterflies could even make money !

    • Kay Haw says:

      Dear Roderick,
      Many thanks for your positive comment. It is vitally important that we balance woodland management for the benefit of all species. I always hope the sharing of best practice and the culmination of knowledge from various experts/organisations through Wood Wise will be helpful for future conservation work.
      Best wishes, Kay

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