Wood pasture is an important habitat, positively teeming with life and vital to preserve. If you can’t picture what this habitat looks like, you’re not alone!
It’s an understudied, historically overlooked part of our landscape, so there’s little awareness of its existence let alone its value. At their core, both wood pasture and parkland consist of big old trees with full crowns growing in grazed pasture. They are what ecologists like to call a ‘mosaic habitat’ which means a particular mixture of other habitats within it; the value of which is greater than the sum of its parts.
Many people don’t realise that trees develop an entirely different shape and structure if they are grown in the open as opposed to in a woodland. This structure makes them better at supporting wildlife and can mean they live a lot longer. Longer lived trees means more decaying wood which is one of the rarest and most cherished micro-habitats that wood pasture supports. With the help of some fungi, the heart of old trees slowly decay. This decay happens in stages, with each and every stage having different species depending on it. The last stages of this decay process are now so uncommon that many of the species that rely on this micro-habitat are now at risk of extinction.
Historic maps show some of these sites and the trees they support date back many hundreds of years, even to the early Medieval times. This great history and continuity just adds to their value. The age of these trees means they have become life rafts for those species within them. Wood Pasture and Parkland, like most of our habitats, are at risk from many threats. They are suffering from fragmentation, conversion to commercial forestry or ploughed agriculture, development, and neglect. On top of this, changes as a result of climate change, pollution and tree diseases, threaten the core features at the heart of this habitat; the veteran trees.
Raising the habitat’s profile
The Wood Pasture and Parkland Network is determined to raise the profile of this incredible habitat with a series of 5 videos. The videos introduce the ecological, biological, historical, cultural and landscape aspects of Wood Pasture and Parkland, describing best management techniques. To view the videos and find out more about the Network please visit the website.