Woodlands in the UK have great historical and cultural importance. The fate of woodland wildlife, which includes some of the most rapidly declining birds in the UK, as well as rare bats, plants, fungi and other wildlife, is tied to past and future management of our woods. The Woodland Wildlife Toolkit website, created through a partnership of organisations, provides a tool to help people manage woods for the wildlife in their local area. Jacqueline Weir, Ecologist at the RSPB and woodland specialist, explains.

Woodlands past, present and future

Growing up in an urban area, I always looked forward to trips to the countryside, particularly woodlands. In my mind, these were the most ‘natural’ places we visited.

In fact, UK woodlands have been shaped by humans over many centuries, and management of this wonderfully rich habitat is ingrained in our cultural heritage. Management has become less in recent decades though, and unmanaged woodlands have become uniform and dark. Past tree clearance means that landscapes often contain small fragments of woods.

But we can help! Managing woodlands in a targeted way can help wildlife to thrive. There are also economic reasons to manage woodlands, and these can go side by side with wildlife conservation.

Hawfinch – one of the species featured in the Woodland Wildlife Toolkit. © Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)

A tool to help you manage woods

We’ve been working with a partnership of organisations to help people manage woodlands for wildlife. Together, we’ve created an innovative tool, called the Woodland Wildlife Toolkit.

The toolkit is hosted online and provides a wealth of information on woodland management. The key tool is an interactive map, where you can find a particular wood, and bring up a list of declining woodland species in the area. It provides factsheets covering a whole range of wildlife from bats and birds to fungi and lichens. The factsheets in your list describe the management that can benefit species local to your wood, and a summary is provided across all species in your list. These factsheets can help you to ensure that the management you are putting in place can benefit the species that need it most.

There is also a condition assessment, which guides you through an on-the-ground survey of your wood. The ‘management planning’ tab provides a link to a planning tool called ‘myForest’. So you can go on a journey from finding out which species might be in your wood, to creating a management plan. This can be useful in applying for grants to help with management costs.

The Woodland Wildlife Toolkit welcome page.

Exciting plans ahead

The toolkit currently covers England, Scotland and Wales, and we are planning to add Northern Ireland. We will also add case studies, and expand the section on woodland creation, as there are national targets to increase woodland cover as a nature-based solution to addressing climate change.

Try it out!

If you have any involvement with managing woodlands, then have a look and see what the toolkit can do for you. There is a feedback button on the website and we would love to hear your comments or suggestions on how we can make it even better for wildlife! To access the tool, visit: https://woodlandwildlifetoolkit.sylva.org.uk/.

Working in partnership

The Woodland Wildlife Toolkit has been created by a partnership of Bat Conservation Trust, Butterfly Conservation, Forestry Commission, Natural England, Plantlife, RSPB, Sylva Foundation and Woodland Trust; with input also from other experts. Funding has come from the Woodland Trust and RSPB. The condition assessment was put together by Forestry Commission, Forest Research, Natural England and Woodland Trust.

Continue reading
Iguana awareness day – Saving iguanas in the Caribbean Overseas Territories
BirdLife’s birthday – everyone welcome!
Enhancing urban nature: how we’re helping to deliver liveable, sustainable towns and cities

Want our blogs emailed to you automatically? Click the cog in the top right of this page and select 'turn blog notifications on' (if you have an RSPB blog account) or 'subscribe by email'.