Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust are leading the Ancient Woodland Inventory Update for South Yorkshire.
There are several types of ancient woodland. Even areas of woodland which have been deforested and then replaced by plantations preserve much of the soil character of ancient woodland, and provide a unique habitat for plant and animal species.
Similarly, ancient woodlands don’t have to have been densely and continuously forested – open spaces and temporary clearings are very important for maintaining the unique environment of ancient woodland.
Ancient semi-natural woodland
Woodlands where the majority of trees and shrubs are native to the site, and do not appear to be the result of planting, are designated as ancient semi-natural woodland.
The reference to ‘semi-natural’ is because these sites may still show evidence of coppicing or other forest management techniques, but have nonetheless remained forested for at least 400 years.
Plantations on ancient woodland sites
These are woodlands where the native species have been felled and replaced by non-native species. Typically these are conifers, but red oak, beech and sweet chestnut plantations are not uncommon.
Although they are composed of non-native species, the soils, fungi, ground flora, wildlife and archaeology have the character of ancient woodland and they are protected as such. In many cases, they are undergoing management to restore native tree and shrub cover.
Wood pasture and parkland
While we don’t often think of wide, open spaces as woodlands, they are actually very important parts of the landscape. For centuries semi-open wood pasture and parkland was used as land where animals could graze, either in common or managed by landowners.
A mixture of open ground and wooded groves, trees in this habitat are often very old and their pits and hollows make perfect homes for rare species of wildlife.