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Conservation and enhancement of biodiversity

6.3Conservation of semi-natural woodlands and plantations on ancient woodland sites
6.3.1

Requirement

  1. Woodland identified in section 6.1.1 shall not be converted to plantation or non-forested land.

    Areas converted from semi-natural and ancient semi-natural woodlands after 1985 shall not normally qualify for certification. Certification may be allowed in circumstances where sufficient evidence is submitted to the certification body that the owner/manager is not responsible directly or indirectly for such conversion.

  2. Enhancement and/or restoration shall be a priority in ancient semi-natural woodlands and other semi-natural woodlands. Non-native species shall not be introduced or be allowed to become established in such woodlands.A plan to contain and progressively remove under-planted non-native or invasive species shall be implemented.

    Management shall be in accordance with the UK Forestry Standard and the relevant FC practice guides for semi-natural woodlands.

  3. Adverse ecological impacts of non-native species shall be monitored in ancient semi-natural woodlands and other semi-natural woodlands.

Means of verification

  • Field observations
  • Discussions with the owner/manager
  • Management planning documentation including FC or DARD approved management plan and restocking plans
  • Monitoring records.

Guidance

Non-native species may be retained where they have a high ecological or cultural value.

Note to certifiers

Restocking of semi-natural and ancient semi-natural woodlands should have been in accordance with this requirement since the introduction of the Broadleaves Policy to Great Britain in 1985 and similar policies and strategies to Northern Ireland. These requirements were incorporated into the UK Forestry Standard in 1998 and are a condition of relevant felling licences and permissions.

6.3.2

Requirement

  1. Evaluation
    Owners/managers shall identify action which will progressively improve the biodiversity, environmental and cultural values of plantations on ancient woodland sites (PAWS), considering the site, landscape context and management objectives.
  2. Prioritisation
    Owners/managers shall maintain and enhance remnant features of ancient woodland on all PAWS sites by:

    • Undertaking field assessment and evaluation of the biodiversity, environmental and cultural values of PAWS to identify threats, ongoing declines and potential gains
    • Prioritising action taking account of:
      • Degree and immediacy of threat to remnant features
      • Potential biodiversity gains at a site and landscape scale.
  3. Identifying management prescriptions
    Owners/managers shall identify management prescriptions that:

    • Maintain ancient woodland features by addressing threats and ongoing decline on all PAWS
    • Secure potential gains identified as a priority
    • Adopt appropriate silvicultural systems that minimise negative impacts.
  4. Implementation
    Owners/managers shall implement management prescriptions to ensure that:

    • Field assessments are carried out prior to planned operations to ensure remnant features are safeguarded
    • Operations are implemented in a manner that does not adversely impact the sites’ values.
  5. Monitoring
    Owners/managers shall implement a monitoring plan that includes:

    • Monitoring and reviewing the condition and response of remnant ancient woodland features
    • Monitoring the status of threats
    • Monitoring the condition of cultural heritage features.

Means of verification

  1. Evaluation
    • Management planning documentation, including a long term policy
    • Field observationsDiscussions with owner/manager.
  2. Prioritisation
    • Management planning documentation, including a long term policy
    • Field observations
    • Discussions with owner/manager.
  3. Identifying management prescriptions
    • Five-year implementation plan
    • Long-term policy.
  4. Implementation
    • Operational records.
  5. Monitoring
    • Management planning documentation
    • Monitoring records.

Guidance

For all PAWS, continued growth of plantations for economic reasons on ancient woodland sites is likely to mean that active management is needed to maintain the biodiversity, environmental and cultural values of these sites. Remnant features (e.g. ground flora) should be maintained through protection and management.

A precautionary approach is appropriate in most instances so that enhancement will be a gradual and long-term process. Silvicultural decisions such as thinning intensity and felling plans should be guided by the remnant and cultural features in the stand.

Refer to the glossary for definition of ‘remnant’ and ‘cultural features’.

Sources of guidance for each step are given below. Refer to the requirement in section 7.4.1 for cultural values.

  1. Evaluation
    Establishing the validity of the site’s status as PAWS need not solely rely on ancient woodland inventories.This evaluation should take account of:

    • Historical and archaeological features and landscape implications
    • Remnant features including the ground flora, shrub layer, underwood, naturally regenerated native trees, veteran trees and deadwood.

    A precautionary approach should be adopted in evaluating the latent potential of densely shaded or unthinned plantations. This could include exploratory work and subsequent monitoring.

    Detailed survey and species lists are unlikely to be necessary but features should be annotated on an outline map that allows managers to ensure that these features are protected and favoured during operations.

    Threats may include shading, deer browsing, windthrow and soil compaction.

    Typically, urgent operations are opening up ride and stream sides, releasing veteran trees, thinning around suppressed broadleaves and deer control.

  2. Prioritisation
    Dense shade and invasive species present the greatest threat to remnant features and hence are likely to be a priority for action. The threats posed vary with the type, occurrence and distribution of remnant features and the individual characteristics of a stand.Sites with the potential to offer greatest gain may be those in close proximity to ASNW and other semi-natural habitats.
  3. Identifying management prescriptions
    A gradual process of change is often favoured but clearfelling may be an acceptable option where it can be demonstrated that this system will not adversely impact on remnant features of ancient woodland or cultural heritage interests. Exploratory silvicultural interventions may help inform the choice of management prescription.Restocking should be carried out in such a way that remnant features are enhanced and buffered.
  4. Implementation
    Operational threats include:

    • Extraction damage
    • Roading impacts
    • Brash
    • Herbicide use
    • Soil compaction.
  5. Monitoring

    See also section 2.3.2.

    Monitoring may also be used to:

    • Evaluate PAWS sites
    • Evaluate the effectiveness of management prescriptions.
6.3.3

Requirement

Where appropriate and possible, owners/managers shall use natural regeneration or planting stock from parental material growing in the local native seed zone (native species).

In ancient and other semi-natural woodland, where natural regeneration is insufficient, planting stock from ‘source-identified’ stands in the local native seed zone shall be used wherever it is available (see FRM). If timber quality is an objective of the planting, the use of stock deriving from selected stands within the local native seed zone shall be considered appropriate.

Means of verification

  • Seed and plant supply invoices and other relevant records
  • Evidence of efforts to identify planting stock from source-identified stands in the local native seed zone.

Guidance

There should be clear justification where non-local sources are used. This may include reasons of tree vigour, timber quality, pest and disease resilience and climate change adaptation.

The identity code used for parental material includes an ‘N’ when it applies to native material from known indigenous sources.

The voluntary Local Native Seed Zone does not operate in Northern Ireland.