Temperate Broadleaf Woodland: Biome

Details about one of the studied biomes: temperate broadleaf woodland. Includes features of the ecosystem, importance, threats, and conservation measures.

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Features of Temperate Broadleaf Woodland

- Located mainly in the northern hemisphere, generally in mid-latitudes of 30-60 degrees

- Mild summers and mild winters - temperature range of about 20 degrees all year

- Seasonality is well-defined in terms of temperature but not so much in precipitation

- Water supply is therefore regular

Image result for temperate deciduous woodland

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Importance

1. High Biodiversity - seasonality means that different species can exploit niches at different times, e.g: due to the deciduous trees losing leaves, there are high light levels at the ground in Spring, so many flowers bloom at this time. Lack of dominant species means there are many

2. Resources - for medicine (willow for aspirin), wood as fuel or building material, food provision (like game as well as berries), charcoal for smelting metal ore

3. Climate Control - woodlands are large reservoirs of carbon, as the trees sequester carbon in woody biomass as they photosynthesise and grow. This offsets the greenhouse effect and therefore maintains a stable climate, in addition to the role of trees and vegetation in transpiration

4. Soil Erosion Control - the tree roots bind soil and aerate it, making it less likely to erode and more fertile. They also manage the soil water content as they take up water through the roots into the transpiration stream

5. Recreation - woodlands have an important role in activities and leisure, like walking, cycling, camping, picnics, etc

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Threats

1. Deforestation and Land Use Change - urban sprawl and the increased need for farmland have been major causes for forest clearance. This is direct destruction, meaning many of the species lose their habitat. Since 1935 the UK coverage of deciduous woodland has reduced by 40%

2. Fragmentation of Remaining Woodland - from clearance, populations become isolated, whihc reduces the gene pools and makes the species vulnerable to extinction or the inheritence of harmful genetic defects. Many species like songbirds cannot cross the deforested areas

3. Management Change - historical methods like coppicing and pollarding create a habitat with a high wildlife value, but modern management for timber often involves monoculture plantations which have a very low wildlife value

4. Introduced Species - including pathogens like Dutch Elm Disease which can kill individuals, and eventually lead to loss of habitat or species from the area

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Threat: Infrastructure Development

Image result for protected woodlands uk map

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Conservation 1

DESIGNATE PROTECTED AREAS

Examples: Epping Forest SAC, Sherwood Forest NNR

Inside these areas, damaging activity like development and clearance are prohibited. The 2012 National Planning Policy Framework refuses plannning permission for development that results in loss/deterioration of important habitats like ancient woodland and veteran trees

Image result for protected woodlands uk

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Conservation 2

LEGAL PROTECTION OF ANCIENT WOODLAND

Ancient Woodland = area of woodland that has existed since before 1600 - likely to have developed naturally a long time ago rather than be man-made

These usually have a very high biodiversity due to the length of time they've been developing - species have had a long time to adapt and colonise. Some take a long time to colonise so ancient woodland is the main place these indigenous species are found

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Conservation 3

CONSERVATION MANAGEMENT

Historical methods like pollarding and coppicing also help to maintain a plagioclimax - they create variations in abiotic factors like light to prevent the trees becoming too dominant, and thus keep the conditions within the range of tolerance of many indigenous species

Afforestation is a modern practice. Trees are planted in the community for recreation, and along field margins - could be effective as biological corridors

Typical Conservation Management includes -

  • Coppicing - creation and maintenance of habitats (periodic cutting of trees to their stumps on a cycle of 8-15 years)
  • Creation of Woodland clearings - vary vegetation age structure and abiotic factors like light penetration so that more species can colonise
  • Plant Mixed-Species - this increase biodiversity, especially as interspecies relationships mean that many species are linked (so planting 5 more types of tree could bring 10 species to the habitat)
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