Coniferous Forests

Coniferous Forests

Trees and forests are a very valuable part of the environment and of the global landscape.  In Britain our native woodlands have recently come under considerable threat from invasive diseases and we have almost lost several major species.  It is unavoidable and by necessity that we may need to introduce an element of alien varieties to supplement these losses.

The traditional English landscape has always been subject to changes as civilization applies its pressures upon the countryside.

“The development of civilization and industry in general has always shown itself so active in the destruction of forests that everything that has been done for that conservation and production is completely insignificant in comparison”.  Karl Marx

“A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself.  Forests are the lungs of the land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to the people”.  Franklin D. Roosevelt

In a commercial and progressive move to be more self-sufficient the UK has a wide distribution of (mainly alien) coniferous plantations.  They are fast growing to provide softwood timber for a wide range of uses.  There are more than half a million hectares of coniferous plantations in England and Wales.  The Forestry Commission, established after the First World War, aimed to ensure that a sufficient reserve of timber would be available, particularly at times of urgent need.

Coniferous plantations tend to form dark unnaturally regular ‘blocks’ of uniform colour that are alien to the English landscape.  Such monocultures do not provide suitable habitats for the native wildlife.  While Scots Pine, Yew and Juniper are also conifers they being native to the British Isles can provide reasonably good habitats for our native species.

Non-native trees such as the Douglas Fir, Norway Spruce, Sitka Spruce and the Corsican Pine that are more productive and form the majority, are planted in greater densities.  As such they are less supportive for wildlife.  Much is now being done to improve the conditions by opening up the woodland with pathways and fire-breaks.

An exception to these evergreen conifer wood plantations is those of the more natural (almost native) larch.  This is a deciduous conifer that loses its needles in the autumn.  It has a more spreading, looser growth that allows more sunlight and a much improved habitat for our native wildlife.





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