UK woodlands changing

New research published by Bournemouth University, UK in Proceedings of the Royal Society B shows something quite unexpected.

Perhaps counter-intuitively the research shows woodlands are losing biodiversity but the species composition is remaining roughly similar. By comparing Dorset woodlands, in south-west England, with the same woods 70 years ago the researchers found they are suffering from "taxonomic homogenisation".


The same everywhere?

The real problem, it seems, is the woodlands are losing their individuality. Sally Keith of Bournemouth University and her colleagues studied 65 woods that had been surveyed during the 1930s, plus many more sites that had been wooded 70 years ago. It transpired the woods contained roughly the same amount of species, but had lost their local distinctiveness.

The woods with greater number of species 70 years ago, now contain less species and those with less then now contain more. In total 117 plant species have vanished from the sites and only 47 new ones have arrived.

Keith believes that increased pollution - including fertiliser run-off and air pollution - and poor countryside management have led to this standardisation of biodiversity. There are bigger canopies with fewer clearings for unique species to thrive and these issues "must be addressed if we wish to restore the diverse woodland communities of the past".