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Wet Woodland

Wet woodlands occur on poorly drained or seasonally waterlogged soils and are usually dominated by alder Alnus glutinosa, birch Betula spp., and willow Salix spp. They are found on floodplains, as successional habitats on fens and bogs, along streams and flushes, and in peaty hollows. Wet woodlands frequently occur as mosaics with other woodland habitat types (such as oak woods) and wetland habitats.

Current status

There is no precise data available about the total extent of wet woodland in the UK although a crude estimate has been given as 50 000 - 70 000 ha. Wet woodland is found throughout the North East but in many cases are only of small size. The extent of this habitat within the region has yet to be fully quantified.

Threats

  • Overgrazing by domestic stock, deer and rabbits, leading to a loss of ground flora, difficulties in regeneration of tree species and changes to the woodland structure.
  • Clearance and conversion to other land-uses.
  • Succession to drier woodland types.
  • Flood prevention measures and river control leading to changes in river dynamics which prevent development of new wooded areas.
  • Invasion by non-native species, such as Indian balsam Impatiens glandulifera, which can change vegetation composition and lower the conservation value of sites.
  • Lowering of water tables through water abstraction or drainage, leading to drying of wooded areas.
  • Pollution and poor water quality leading to changes in the composition of ground flora and invertebrate communities.

Opportunities for protection and enhancement

  • Enhancement through fencing to eliminate/reduce grazing; supplementary planting, bracken spraying, gap creation, scarification etc to encourage natural regeneration of tree species; creation of links between existing woodlands and boundary features to reduce the effects of habitat fragmentation.
  • The Forestry Commissionís Woodland Grant Scheme gives grants for the planting of new woodlands. The Annual Management Grant and Woodland Improvement Grant make payments for the management of existing woodlands. The New Native Woodland Challenge in National Parks scheme within the Northumberland National Park and the Jigsaw Challenge within the North Pennines are targeted at creating new native woodlands, extending and linking existing semi-natural ancient woodlands.
  • The Northumberland National Park enters into woodland management agreements with landowners to secure the management of existing woodlands.
  • Management of flood defence or of the local water table may provide opportunities for the creation of new areas of wet woodland.