Retaining and protecting existing hedgerow and in-field trees wherever possible will safeguard them, and the planting or recruitment of new hedgerow and in-field trees as successors will ensure a supply of trees for the future. Such planting or recruitment can also be used to increase the number of trees outside of woodland where few are currently found.
Mature and over-mature trees outside of woodland are a vital wildlife resource supporting many species of insect, birds, bats and other mammals. This is particularly true in areas with low woodland cover where they provide vital habitat that supports many species, providing resources not available elsewhere in the landscape. In well-wooded landscapes as well as a wildlife resource in their own right, these trees act as vital wildlife corridors and stepping stones that allow a wide range of species to move through the landscape.
Trees outside of woodland enhance wildlife by providing resources such as structural cover and shelter and a range of microclimates not present in the wider farmed landscape. They also supply specific species requirements including food and breeding sites. For example, trees in agricultural landscapes are known to be important for birds and bats as cover from weather and predators, by connecting patches of habitat to make the landscape permeable, and for the food, nesting and roosting opportunities they can provide. There is a strong relationship between hedgerow trees and moths which in turn support populations of birds and bats.
Native species of tree support more wildlife and so have a greater value for this purpose. Standing deadwood is also particularly valuable for many insects, bats and some nesting birds and can often be in short supply.
Retain mature hedgerow trees and in-field trees where possible. Protect hedgerow and in-field trees from damage to the roots caused by cultivation, poaching by livestock or drainage. The roots can be protected by creating buffer strips wide enough to take in the area under the tree canopy.
Recruit new hedgerow and in-field trees by planting local native stock or by tagging an uncut young tree in the hedge to protect it from trimming. This will ensure the overall numbers of trees in the landscape is secured in the longer term. In areas where there are currently few trees outside of woodland, consider these measures to increase that resource for the future.
Think about any new provision of trees at the landscape scale to see how, in the future, they will be best positioned to support wildlife by connecting wildlife habitats, providing shelter and structure across the landscape and enhancing the availability of mature and over-mature trees for all the wildlife that require such trees in order to thrive.
Retain standing dead and decaying trees wherever possible as these are important for the lifecycle of a range of insects as well as for nesting birds and roosting bats. If work to dead and decaying trees is necessary, aim to reduce the canopy rather than fell them completely. Retain any cut or fallen timber intact and in situ wherever possible. The voids around root systems and old tree stumps are also important for hibernation areas for some species including amphibians, reptiles and dormice.
Be aware of any Tree Preservation Orders on the farm and ensure you know of the presence of veteran or ancient trees. Veteran and ancient trees are important for wildlife including rare and specialist species. Such trees also have a cultural, historical and landscape importance. They require very sensitive management. If any management is required on veteran or ancient trees, seek specialist advice.
Be aware of any trees containing bat roosts (which are legally protected) and mark them to avoid damaging, disturbing or destroying them with future management. Around three quarters of the 17 British bat species are known to roost in trees. They can use cavities in the trunk or branches, woodpecker holes, loose bark, cracks, splits as roosting places. These may not necessarily be in mature trees, as some immature and very young trees can support these roost features and provide opportunities for bats.
Ivy should be retained on trees wherever possible due to the wildlife it supports. When in bloom during autumn, when little else is flowering, it is a great source of nectar for a host of insects, especially for bees and butterflies. It is in the mid-winter when there are few other berries available that wildlife and birds, in particular the thrush family, will rely on these. Ivy also provides roosting, nesting, hibernating and hiding sites for birds, insects and occasionally bats.
Here are some useful case studies and articles about how farmers are putting Farm Wildlife into practice on their farms
Author: Craig Dunton, Grey long-eared bat Project Officer, Bat Conservation Trust Species: Grey Long-eared bat: © Craig Dunton/www.bats.org.uk Why is farmland important for this species? With as few as 1000 individuals In the UK, the grey long-eared bat is one of our rarest mammals. Their distribution is restricted to the southern coast (Devon, Dorset, […]