Collaboration with Forest Research.
Tree planting is at the forefront of the global environmental agenda because of its potential to mitigate climate change, benefit biodiversity, and contribute to a green economic recovery. However, it can take a long time for tree planting sites to acquire the species, develop the attributes and perform the natural processes characteristic of woodland ecosystems. Natural regeneration, the establishment of trees from seeds germinated in-situ, is a key process underlying the long-term continuity of woodland ecosystems; it also facilitates woodland adaptation to climate change and, by increasing structural heterogeneity and availability of food and resources, benefits woodland biodiversity. By browsing on edible vegetation, mammalian herbivores such as deer can severely suppress natural regeneration processes, and potentially disrupt woodland development; however, this remains largely unexplored in the context of woodland creation. The work proposed in this application will generate new data on natural regeneration rates in woodland sites that have been created over the past 160 years, and combine this with existing datasets on woodland attributes (including information on their use by mammalian herbivores). We will use this information to: 1) quantify the impacts of herbivory on natural regeneration rates, 2) determine when and where natural regeneration processes are most strongly impacted by herbivory, and 3) identify attributes of woodland creation sites that make them resilient to herbivory pressure. This work will generate evidence to underpin woodland creation and management strategies to enhance the long-term ecological value of woodland creation sites.