Coniferous plantations cover large parts of the
countryside in certain areas of Britain. Coniferous forests are usually
planted for the important softwood timber crop which they will produce. Each person
alive in Britain today uses a tonne of wood every year in products as diverse as kitchen
paper and garden furniture.
Conifer trees include many different species, but most are fast growing and are ready to
crop 6 times faster than hardwood trees such as oak. There are only a few native
species of conifer in Britain, these include Scots Pine, Juniper and Yew. All the
others are introduced for their fast growing qualities.
Because most conifers are evergreen and have leaves all year round, densely planted mature
conifer plantations tend to hide sunlight from the ground so that little else grows on the
woodland floor. As a result, conifer plantations do not support the same diversity
of wildlife as do deciduous woodlands.
Coppicing is one of the oldest forms of woodland
management and has been practiced in Britain for many centuries. Coppicing
is the process of cutting down deciduous trees and allowing them to regrow for some 7-25
years before harvesting again. It is a sustainable way of cropping timber from a
woodland and is actually beneficial to wildlife. When the trunk of a tree is cut down to
the base, it will sprout up again with lots of fast growing new shoots. Many species
of trees in Britain are coppiced, including Oak, Ash, Hazel and Maple. The resulting
stumps are called stools while the stems which regrow are called rods, pole or logs
depending on their size. The speed of regrowth varies with species but is always
fast; Oak can regrow by 2 metres in a season and Sallow up to 4 metres. Traditional
uses for coppiced timber include bean sticks, firewood, baskets, tool handles and
brooms. Many centuries ago, coppicing provided people with the timber they needed to
live. If coppicing is done on a rotational basis in a woodland it increases
biodiversity by allowing ground flora to flourish in freshly coppiced areas which get more
sunlight at ground level. As the trees regrow, other areas of the woodland are
coppiced so there is always a mix of dark and light areas at ground level.
A carnivorous Crab Spider sits motionless on a
leaf waiting to ambush its prey. Unlike many spiders, Crab Spiders do not
use a web to catch their prey. Instead, they sit motionless on a yellow or white
flower with their crab-like front limbs outstretched, waiting to grab an unsuspecting
insect who comes to feed on the flower's nectar. They can increase their chances of
catching a meal by changing their colour to match that of the flower they are sitting on.
The process can take several days but the variety of possible colours ranges from
white through to green and yellow. Their size is around 10mm with the males being
smaller than the females. They are quite common in southern England during the