British Wildlife 29.3 February 2018

Rewetting of woodland: trial management on two RSPB nature reserves

Drainage has left many woodlands much drier today than they were historically, but it is unclear what effect this has had on woodland wildlife. However, boggy areas in woods do provide breeding habitats for many invertebrates, which in turn provide food for birds, and declines in these could therefore be linked to the loss of wetter habitats. This article describes trials at two RSPB reserves which aimed to rewet woodlands, and reveals the effect that this had on priority breeding bird species, such as Nightingales.

The story starts in February 2008, during a visit to Wolves Wood, in Suffolk, as part of a gathering of the RSPB’s woodland reserve staff. One member of the group commented that the site seemed drier than when they had worked there in the 1980s: back then, walking around the wood used to be a challenge owing to its wetness, and in spring you would be accompanied by swarms of mosquitoes and other insects.

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