Woodland Picture Gallery 1 2

Coniferous Forest, Coppiced Woodland, Crab Spider, Dead Tree, Decomposition, Deer - Roe Buck

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Coniferous Forest Coppiced Woodland Crab Spider

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 summer months.



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Dead tree Decomposition Deer - Roe Buck

A dead tree provides a habitat for many different plants and animals. Dead trees are more valuable to wildlife than they might seem.  The death of the tree means that its constituents will be returned to the soil and the air by a process called decomposition.  In effect, this recycles the materials so that other plants and animals may live.  This process is carried out by many different organisms including invertebrates, fungi and bacteria.  The dead wood becomes a habitat in its own right, supporting a number of different food chains as it decomposes.  For instance, invertebrates helping to break down the wood can be eaten by carnivorous become food for small birds and mammals.


A decomposing leaf. Decomposition is the natural process of dead animal or plant tissue being rotted or broken down. This process is carried out by invertebrates, fungi and bacteria. The result of decomposition is that the building blocks required for life can be recycled.  Decomposition is an important part of all life cycles.  In a forest, dead leaves that fall from deciduous trees in the autumn form a thick carpet on the forest floor.   Decomposition reduces these leaves first into a compost and then into nutrients which return to the soil and enable new plant growth to take place.




A buck (male) Roe Deer with antlers covered in a hairy skin called velvet. This layer is shed during late spring when the males become territorial and fight each other using the newly exposed hard and sharp antlers. They also use the antlers to mark the boundaries of their territory by scraping the bark from young trees, causing serious damage in commercial timber plantations.    Unlike many species of deer, roe deer are not herd animals and a single male will normally associate with just one female in his territory.  Mating occurs during late summer but the fertile eggs do not develop until later in the year.  By May of the following year a pregnant female normally gives birth to two young.



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All images copyright Offwell Woodland & Wildlife Trust