A huge national survey is taking place to update the data held on ancient woodland sites – those which have had continuous woodland cover since 1600AD. The Ancient Woodland Inventory (AWI) is being coordinated by Natural England and here, in Hertfordshire, Herts Environmental Records Centre (HERC) are contributing local data to the national picture.
Ancient Woodlands are a special type of woodland that have developed undisturbed for centuries. Home to many rare, threatened and treasured species, they have the potential to support the highest diversity of species of any woodland type and play a vital role in the fight against climate change by capturing and storing carbon.
The original AWI dataset, which was first compiled between 1981 and 1992, identifies over 52,000 ancient woodland sites in England, with 842 woodlands in Hertfordshire, ranging in size from small woodland parcels to massive woodland complexes. With 30 years having elapsed, there have been huge advances in digital mapping and improvements in the methods of identifying ancient woodland which has led to the need to update the dataset. The AWI is a vital tool used to inform the conservation of these ecologically and culturally important habitats and the update will:
- Allow for the incorporation of new evidence to support ancient woodland classification.
- Improve on the accuracy and precision of existing ancient woodland boundaries, and remove mapping errors created when the original dataset was digitised.
- Identify omissions from the original dataset, including any ancient woodland parcels smaller than 2 hectares and wood pastures (another important ancient habitat).
Over the last few months, a landscape historian has been identifying potential ancient woodlands across the county using a range of historical maps. Additionally, HERC have appointed a Data Officer for Ancient Woodlands, Emily Baker, who will be carrying out surveys looking for field evidence of ancient woodlands, such as plant indicator species and historical features, such as wood banks, ditches, and walls. This work will be going on throughout spring and summer and HERC is looking for two types of volunteer – historical volunteers to help with documenting the archival evidence, and ecological volunteers to carry out surveys of woodlands across the county.
Emily Baker, Data Officer at HERC says: ‘The historical volunteers will be desk based and field volunteers will have the opportunity to survey sites across the county. Training will be provided for both these roles, but for ecological volunteers we are particularly seeking individuals with good knowledge of woodland flowers and grasses.
‘Also, if you are a landowner and own any woodlands in Hertfordshire that you think may be ancient, we’d love to hear from you!’
If you’d like to get in touch regarding volunteering or with information any regarding woodlands in Hertfordshire, you can contact Emily at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To find out more about the Ancient Woodland Inventory visit www.hercinfo.org.uk/post/calling-for-volunteers-to-help-protect-hertfordshire-s-ancient-woodlands.