Wet woodland. A jungle of deadwood and new growth from toppled trunks, in waterlogged ground, ‘carr’ is an impressive extreme form of wet woodland. Wet and waterlogged woods provide important habitats for biodiversity with an abundance of lichens, mosses, sedges, rushes and ferns and large numbers of invertebrates which support amphibians, mammals and birds.
Wet woodland occurs on poorly drained, wet or seasonally wet soils, usually with alder, birch and willows as the predominant tree species, but sometimes including other trees especially ash on the drier edges of marshy areas.
It is found on floodplains, as successional habitat on fens, mires and bogs, along streams and hill-side flushes. Wet woodland frequently occurs in mosaic with fens, swamps and mires. It can be found within other forms of woodland and the boundaries may change over time through succession and changing conditions.
Wet woodland is well represented in Barnsley:There are 67 examples of streamside areas of alder or willow, 18 areas of willow carr with those near Worsbrough reservoir, Elsecar Reservoir, and Gunthwaite Dam the best examples, ten wet woodland areas within woodlands and one of scattered willow.
Wet woodland is important for many plants and animals: The high humidity supports rich arrays of moss. The number of invertebrates associated with Alder, Birch and Willow is very large and wet woodland associated with even quite small seepages may be valuable. There are often large amounts of deadwood, and its association with water, including log jams in streams, provides specialised habitats not found in dry woodland types.
Wet woodland provides cover and breeding sites for mammals, such as Otter, Water Vole and Noctule bat, and birds such as Willow Tit.
Priority habitat details
Wet woodland is a local priority habitat because of its national status, the plants, animals and birds it supports, and the opportunity for its conservation in Barnsley.
Wet woodland is a national priority habitat.
It is classed as broadleaf woodland in Phase 1 habitat surveys.
Wet woodland in Barnsley includes National Vegetation Classification categories:
W2 Willow-birch carr
W4 Birch-purple hairgrass
W5 Alder sedge woodland
W6 alder-nettle woodland
W7 alder-ash woodland
Long established wet woodlands are particularly rich in wildlife but more recently established wet woodlands are also valuable.
The best examples of the local priority habitat are:
Status. There are no precise figures for the total extent of Wet Woodland in the UK but in the late 1980s the Nature Conservancy Council estimated the total extent of this type in semi-natural woodland to be about 25,000-30,000 ha. The area of recent wet woodland may be at least as large again. Thus, a crude estimate of the total wet woodland in the UK is 50-70,000 ha. In Yorkshire surveys have found 343 ha but this is only a small proportion of the real extent.
National policies have a presumption against clearance of any broadleaved woodland including wet woodland for other land uses.
Thinning or clearance of woodland including wet woodland requires a felling licence from the Forestry Commission.
In the case of clearance this will stipulate the type and level of restocking.
Sites identified as Local Wildlife Sites have a presumption against planning permission for change of use.
Wet woodland within Local Nature Reserves may be subject to local byelaws.
Individual or groups of trees may be protected by Tree Preservation Orders.
Felling and woodland management where protected species are present may commit offences under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981. Protected species include all breeding birds and all species of bats. Licences may be needed from Natural England.
Links for Information and Advice
Forestry Commission:Practice Guide
Buglife: Managing wet woodland
Local Wildlife Sites
Some 28 wet woodlands are included in Local Wildlife Sites.
The following Local Wildlife Sites include willow carr:
11 Gunthwaite Dam and Clough Wood; 24 Worsbrough Reservoir;
25 Barnsley Canal at Wilthorpe;
46 Elsecar Reservoir;
48 Bretton Park.
Areas where there may be sites that might be considered for Local Wildlife Site designation for the wet woodland priority habitat include: the river Dove north of Wombwell, Worsbrough Dale, Hermit Hill, River Don south of Thurgoland, River Don at Oxspring and Berry Moor.
Local wildlife sites may be designated for their wet woodland ≥0.25ha with National Vegetation Classifications: W4, W5, W6 and W7.
They may also be selected for being ancient woodland, having a good range of ancient woodland indicator or other notable plants, or supporting good populations of species of conservation importance eg bats, birds, invertebrates
Species supported by woodland
Mammals found in wet woodland habitats include otter, water vole, harvest mouse and bats such as noctule and soprano pipistrelle.
Bird species. Woodland shelters a range of birds feeding on flies and other invertebrates. Wet woodland is particularly notable for willow tit, reed bunting and lesser spotted woodpecker.
Reptiles and amphibians. Wet woodland supports grass snake, common toad and great crested newt
Wet woodland supports a wide range of insects and other invertebrates. Examples:
From Worsbrough willow carr: Meligramma guttatum, scarce hoverfly
From: Gunthwaite Dam: Bohemannia quadrimaculella A very local and rare micro-moth, found in alder carr
More examples available.
Although few plants depend on wet woodland, many species thrive there including marsh marigold, opposite-leaved golden saxifrage, ferns, sedges, rushes, mosses and liverworts.
Managing wet woodland for biodiversity
Wet woodlands are important for wildlife. Different species use one or more of the wet woodland features for food or foraging, nesting, roosting, shelter and a refuge from predators.
A full range of wildlife species supported by wet woodland requires structural diversity with open wet soil, leaf litter, high humidity, older living trees and abundant dead wood. A mosaic of vegetation adds to the range of species supported.
Dead, decayed or decaying wood is an essential component of wet woodland ecosystems; this includes standing trees, dead branches, snags on living trees and fallen branches and stumps.
Humid leaf litter and decaying wood support a great range of invertebrate species.
Insects often require specific species of tree, shrub and ground cover as larval food plants.
Landowners, including Barnsley Council, private estates, trusts, and individuals: follow best practice in managing their wet woodlands for wildlife; take up opportunities to restore or create wet woodlands where this does not damage other habitats.
Natural England: administers countryside stewardship grant schemes for woodland creation or improvement, tree health support, or for preparing a woodland management plan.
Forestry Commission:licenses felling and approves woodland management plans; provides guidelines and sets conditions to protect biodiversity.
South Yorkshire Forest Partnership and Woodland Trust: offer advice & support.
The Environment Agency has identified areas in which new woodland creation would reduce flood risk.
Barnsley Council as planning authority: sets conditions in relevant planning applications to ensure that the biodiversity value of woodlands are maintained and enhanced; issues Tree Preservation Orders where appropriate.
Voluntary groups and volunteers: help with woodland management and planting; help with information about the condition of woodlands and provide records of the wildlife in them.
Our key objectives for biodiversity in wet woodlands are to:
A balance will need to be struck between the benefits of successional wet woodland and the benefits of retaining other habitats such a reedbed and other forms of swamp and mire.
Opportunities should be identified to extend, enhance and link local priority habitats and provide corridors or steps between them. Although sites over 0.5ha are a priority, smaller sites that may form stepping stones between sites should also be considered important.
Targets (under review):
What is being done?
Some of the woodland planting undertaken by Barnsley council and Voluntary Action Barnsley as part of the NIA included wet woodland.
Management plans for wet woodland within Worsbrough and Elsecar country parks have been produced.
Causes of loss or decline in value of wet woodlands for wildlife
Good management practice:
Wet woodlands are well-suited to a low-intervention approach. Positive conservation management over time includes:
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