The Forestry Commission has published guidance on species selection for new woodlands as part of The UK Forestry Standard (Standard Note 2, 3) which can be downloaded from the Forestry Commissions Publications pages. The commission has also produced an electronic Ecological Site Classification decision support system to assist in identifying species and native woodland communities suited to an individual site. This can be purchased as a CD from their website.
- Select tree species that are suited to both the site conditions and the intended objectives for the woodland.
- When planting new native woodlands select species characteristic of the Native Woodland Type characteristic of the local landscape and suited to the site conditions. You can view an interactive map of the distribution of native woodland types in County Durham.
- Plant canopy and understorey species in proportions and assemblages found in the native woodland type and respond to variations in ground conditions across the site. Avoid planting locally rare or uncommon species. On difficult sites consider increasing the proportion of hardy pioneer species like birch or alder to act as a nurse. Consider natural regeneration where this is feasible.
- If timber production is an important objective select core species capable of producing quality timber on the site, plant at densities recommended by the FC, and use certified stock. Where possible use species characteristic of native woodlands in the locality – either as timber species or as fringe and nurse species.
- When planting new conifer woodlands introduce some native broadleaved species both in the main crop and in fringes, along watercourses, along rides and internal compartment boundaries, and, where space permits, in permanent stands of native woodland. When planting mixtures of evergreen and deciduous species (such as larch) avoid strong geometric patterns.
- Don’t plant potentially invasive species next to existing native woodland or important semi-natural habitats. Where planting invasive species use a buffer zone to reduce seed dispersal.
On sites with difficult ground conditions – and particularly derelict or reclaimed land – the choice of suitable species may be limited. Such sites are often of nature conservation value, or potential, because of their lack of fertility. While some exotic species may do well on poor sites, they can usually be successfully planted with native species in mixtures based on the native woodland types found on infertile ground, or secondary semi-natural woodlands that have naturally colonised similar sites. These are likely to best compliment other habitats on the site and help assimilate the site visually into the local landscape.
Climate change is likely to bring changes in site conditions over the life of newly planted woodlands but the nature of those changes is difficult to predict. It seems likely that in northern England most of our native woodlands will remain relatively well suited to the conditions and the best advice available is to continue to plant native woodlands based closely on current site conditions. Where timber production is an important objective species and provenance should be well adapted to both current and predicted future climatic conditions. As one of the more significant changes is likely to be increased summer dryness, planting species able to cope with droughtier conditions may be prudent. Advice on this can be found in the Forestry Commission Information Note: Climate Change and British Woodland which can be downloaded from their website.
When planting trees and shrubs in non-woodland situations – hedgerow and field trees, amenity planting – the use of native species, or species characteristic of the local landscape, helps to conserve local landscape character. You can find out more about the distribution of native species in each of the County Character Areas by downloading the following pdf or for further information on individual species visit trees and shrubs native to Durham
When planting hedges and hedgerow trees the hedgerow species mixes recommended for the Durham Field Boundary Restoration Grant in the Hedgerow Guidelines are a useful guide.