On the move- plant translocation trails at Martinshaw Wood
Volunteers are supporting the central England Team with a new project focussing on ancient woodland plant translocation trials within Martinshaw Wood. Based in Leicestershire, Martinshaw is a Planted Ancient Woodland (PAWS) site – in the past parts of the wood were given over to the planting of both native and exotic broadleaf and conifer species as a woodland plantation. The problem with these densely packed conifers is that they completely shade the understory floral species, resulting in their decline. The Woodland Trust acquired Martinshaw wood in 1986 and ever since then has worked to restore the site to it’s former glory by carefully removing the conifer.
Historical records show that the wood was predominantly made up of oak and birch, and despite the dense planting of conifers during the 1950s, has managed to retain a good proportion of different species of ground flora. Surveys conducted since the trust took on the site in 1982 show that it has 10 of the 18 species on the Leicestershire and Rutland Ancient Woodland Vascular Plant (AWVP) list and many are on the Midlands AWVP list. Part of the project will involve mapping these plant species to determine their locations throughout Martinshaw.
Martinshaw Wood is bisected by the M1 motorway which is a barrier to seed dispersal from one part of the site to the other. The section of the wood found to the north east is generally richer in ancient woodland flora compared with the smaller south west section. The latter has also been going through a restoration process to remove dense areas of western hemlock and western red cedar, amongst other species.
The conditions on site are now robust enough to allow a trial to take place to look at the effectiveness of translocating ancient woodland species from areas of abundance to new areas where the ground flora has previously been suppressed.
The trial methodology encompasses a strict set of protocols to enable the meaningful comparison of plant translocation efficacy across the 4 fixed trial plots (5mx5m) where collected plant propagation material will be distributed. The trial plots selected are ones that satisfy pre-identified parameters, such as having similar aspect, slope, soil and neighbouring plant communities. A full survey will be carried out at each of the trial plots to assess plant species already present. Each plot will be prepared in different ways to identify which translocation method is the most effective. The plant propagation material will be collected from plants at Martinshaw, the location of collection will be recorded before careful distribution across the trial plots.
There will be control trial plots where no translocation will take place to allow comparison with translocation trial sites and all sites will be out of the way of harvesting operations.
The first of the plots will be established on 2020-2021 and will continue over a few years, with the trial plots being carefully monitored on an annual basis to gauge efficacy of the translocation. Surveying the vegetation will be repeated to enable us to determine the effectiveness of the translocation process. The findings of this trial will contribute to future policy and schemes.
Speaking about the project, site manager David Logan said “Without our volunteers at Martinshaw we’d not be able to carry out this interesting and important work, thank you to the Martinshaw Woodland Working group for their hard work!”
Amanda Brookes and David Logan
Feature Image and image 1: Martinshaw Wood, Summer 2019, Richard Faulks / WTML
Image 2: Wood Sorrel, John Bridges / WTML
Image 3: Martinshaw Wood, Summer 2019, Richard Faulks / WTML
Image 4: Wood Anemone, John Bridges / WTML