Management for conservation often attempts to replicate the practices that were prevalent in historical times. There does, however, appear to be a lack of understanding of exactly what ‘traditional’ management would have involved, meaning that current conservation interventions may not be adequate for achieving their goals. Paul Dolman, Tom Williamson, Rob Fuller and Gerry Barnes describe the characteristics of traditional landscapes that would have been favourable for biodiversity and, in light of this, suggest ways in which current conservation management could be improved.
Over the past half-century, the contributions of Oliver Rackham and others have increased our knowledge of historical landscapes, but, in spite of this, we still know relatively little about historical land-use practices or their ecological outcomes. By the time the characteristics of particular habitat types were first recorded in the mid–late 19th century, by Richard Jefferies for example, they were already changing fast as a consequence of agricultural modernisation, industrialisation and unprecedented human-population growth.