- English Lowlands beech forests
The term English Lowlands beech forests refers to a terrestrial
ecoregionin Northern Europe, as defined by the World Wide Fund for Nature(WWF) and the European Environment Agency(EEA). [http://www.worldwildlife.org/wildworld/profiles/terrestrial/pa/pa0421_full.html World Wide Fund for Nature: Ecoregion Full Report (PA0421: English Lowlands beech forests)] Part of the Temperate broadleaf and mixed forests biomein the Palaearctic ecozone, it covers 45,600 km² (17,600 square miles) of Southern England, approximately as far as the border with Devonand South Walesin the west, into the Severn valley in the north-west, into the East Midlandsin the north, and up to the border of Norfolkin the north-east of its range. [http://dataservice.eea.europa.eu/atlas/viewdata/viewpub.asp?id=7 European Environment Agency: Digital Map of European Ecological Regions] The WWF code for this ecoregion is PA0421.
To the north, west and south-west lies the similar Celtic broadleaf forests ecoregion, which covers most of the rest of the
British Isles. In addition, two further ecoregions are located in the south-western and north-western edges of Ireland, and the north-western fringes of Scotland(North Atlantic moist mixed forests), and beyond the Scottish Highland Boundary Fault(Caledonian conifer forests). The whole of this Atlantic archipelagois thus considered as originally (or in some sense ideally) forested, with only the far mountainous north being primarily coniferous. Across the English Channellies the Atlantic mixed forests ecoregion in northern Franceand the Low Countries.
The difference between the English lowlands beech forests and the Celtic broadleaf forests lies in the fact that south-eastern England is comparatively drier and warmer in climate, and lower-lying in terms of topography. Geologically, something of the distinction can be found in the dominance of the
Southern England Chalk Formationin this ecoregion, and the Tees-Exe line, which divides the island of Great Britaininto a sedimentary south-east, and a metamorphic and igneous north-west. However, it should be noted that the WWF division was preceded by that of the Hungarian biologist Miklos Udvardy, who had considered the greater part of the British Isles as just one biogeographic province in the Palearctic Realm, which he termed British Islands. [Udvardy, M.D.F., "A Classification of the Biogeographical Provinces of the World", International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Occasional Paper No. 18, Morges, Switzerland, 1975]
Historically, much of this lowland and submontane region was covered with high-canopy
forests dominated by European Beech("Fagus sylvatica"), but also including other species of tree, including oak, ash, rowanand yew. In summer, the forests are generally cool and dark, because the beech produces a dense canopy, and thus restricts the growth of other species of tree and wild flowers. In the spring, however, thick carpets of bluebells can be found, flourishing before the beech leaf-cover becomes too thick.
The National Vegetation Classification (NVC) plant communities associated with beech forests (together with their occurrence ratios in England as a whole) [http://www.ukbap.org.uk/UKPlans.aspx?ID=2 UK Biodiversity Action Plan: Lowland beech and yew woodland] are:
* W12 "Fagus sylvatica" - "Mercurialis perennis" (
Dog's Mercury) woodland ( base-rich soils) - c. 40%
* W14 "Fagus sylvatica" - "Rubus fruticosus" (Bramble) woodland (
mesotrophic soils) - c. 45%
* W15 "Fagus sylvatica" - "Deschampsia flexuosa" (Wavy Hair-grass) woodland (
acidic soils) - c. 15%
River systems, the most significant of which is the Thames, were historically host to lower-canopy riverine forests dominated by
Black Alder, and this can still be encountered occasionally today. Also included in this ecoregion are the distinctive ecosystems associated with the rivers themselves, as well as their flood-meadows and estuaries. The soils are largely based on limestone, and the climate is temperate with steady amounts of rainfall. Temperatures can fall below freezing in the winter.
Nowadays, much of this ecoregion has been given over to agriculture - with the growing of
wheat, barleyand rapeseedparticularly common - as well as to the raising of livestock, especially cattleand sheep. In places it is very heavily populated, with towns, suburbs and villages found nearly everywhere - although the plateau of Salisbury Plainremains largely wild. The most significant centre of population is London, at the head of the Thames estuary, one of the largest cities in the world. Due to this high population density, and to a certain amount of depredation caused by grey squirrels, edible dormice (in the Chilterns) and deer, this forest ecoregion is considered at high risk, with a Critical/Endangered conservation status accorded it by the WWF. Air pollutionmay also be leading to a reduction in beech numbers, through increased susceptibility to disease.
Amongst fauna found in this ecoregion, the
West European Hedgehog, Red Fox, Eurasian Badger, European Rabbitand Wood Mouse are relatively common, while the following are classed as Near Threatenedon the IUCN Red List:
Greater Horseshoe Bat
Barbastelle, as a Vulnerable specieson the Red List, is in greater danger still.
At the end of the last glaciation, about 10,000 years ago, the area's ecosystem was characterised by a largely treeless
tundra. Pollen studies have shown that this was replaced by a taigaof birch, and then pine, before their replacement in turn (c. 4500 BC) by most of the species of tree encountered today - including, by 4000 BC, the beech, which seems to have been introduced from mainland Europe. This was used as a source of flour, ground from the triangular nutlets contained in the "mast", or fruit of the beech, after its tannins had been leached out by soaking. Beechmast has also traditionally been fed to pigs. [Mabey, Richard, "Food for Free: A Guide to the Edible Wild Plants of Britain", Fontana/Collins, Glasgow, 1972, p. 33]
However, by 4000 BC, as
Oliver Rackhamhas indicated, the dominant tree species was not the beech, but the Small-leaved Lime, also known as the pry tree [Rackham, Oliver, "The History of the Countryside", J.M. Dent & Sons, London, 1986, pp. 68-69] . The wildwood was made up of a patchwork of lime-wood areas and hazel-wood areas, interspersed with oak and elmand other species. The pry seems to have become less abundant now because the climate has turned against it, making it difficult for it to grow from seed. Nevertheless, some remnants of ancient lime-wood still remain in south Suffolk. [Ibid., p. 106]
Clearance of forests began with the introduction of farming (c. 4500 BC), particularly in the higher-lying parts of the country, like the
South Downs. At this time, the whole region, apart from upland areas under plough, and marshy areas (e.g. Romney Marshin Kentand much of Somerset), was heavily forested, with woodland stretching nearly everywhere.
Notable surviving examples include:
*The Forest of Arden (
*The Chilterns (on the heights running from
Oxfordshirethrough Buckinghamshireand Hertfordshireto Bedfordshire)
Epping Forest(on the border of north-east Greater Londonand Essex)
Kinver Edge(a remnant of the Mercian forest on the border of south Staffordshireand Worcestershire)
*Morfe Forest (south
Savernake Forest( Wiltshire)
*The Weald (Kent,
East Sussex, West Sussexand Surrey)
Wyre Forest(on the border of Worcestershire and Shropshire)
All of these were once far more extensive than they are today. For example, according to a late 9th century writer, the Weald (from the Anglo-Saxon word "weald" = "forest") once stretched from Kent to
Hampshire, and was convert|120|mi|km long by 30 broad. [Whitelock, Dorothy, "The Beginnings of English Society" (Pelican History of England, vol. 2), Harmondsworth, 1952, p. 14] The New Forest(in south-west Hampshire) remains the largest intact forested area in this ecoregion (at 571 km²), although the hedgerow system, which separates fields from lanes and also from other fields, is also extensive, and serves as an important habitat for otherwise displaced woodland fauna. Some species-rich hedgerows date back at least 700 years, if not 1,000. For many species of bird, significant estuarine habitats include the Thames and Severn estuaries, and the mid-Essex coast.
Mesozoichistory of the area can be seen in the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site, where about 180 Ma of fossil-rich sedimentary deposits have been exposed along a convert|95|mi|km|sing=on stretch of the Dorsetand East Devon coast. The science of palaeontology can be said to have started in large measure here, with the pioneering work of Mary Anning.
Great Storm of 1987was responsible for the uprooting of some 15 million trees in this area.
*Biodiversity Action Plan
Community Forests in England
Geology of England
List of ecoregions
*List of ecoregions in the United Kingdom (UK)
List of forests in the United Kingdom
National Nature Reserves in England
*National parks of England and Wales (New Forest and South Downs)
Protected areas of the United Kingdom
Trees of Britain and Ireland
* [http://www.eoearth.org/article/Ecoregion Encyclopedia of Earth: Ecoregion]
* [http://dataservice.eea.europa.eu/atlas/viewdata/viewpub.asp?id=7 European Environment Agency: Digital Map of European Ecological Regions]
* [http://www.forestry.gov.uk/england Forestry Commission England]
* [http://www.forestry.gov.uk/keepersoftime Keepers of time: A statement of policy for England's Ancient and Native Woodland (Forestry Commission)]
* [http://www.ukbap.org.uk/ UK Biodiversity Action Plan: Homepage]
* [http://www.ukbap.org.uk/UKPlans.aspx?ID=2 UK Biodiversity Action Plan: Lowland beech and yew woodland]
* [http://www.woodland-trust.org.uk/ Woodland Trust]
* [http://www.worldwildlife.org/science/ecoregions.cfm World Wide Fund for Nature: Conservation Science - Ecoregions]
* [http://www.worldwildlife.org/wildworld/profiles/terrestrial/pa/pa0421_full.html World Wide Fund for Nature: Ecoregion Full Report (PA0421: English Lowlands beech forests)]
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
Look at other dictionaries:
Beech Forest — may refer to:* Beech Forest, Victoria, a town in Australia * English Lowlands beech forests, a Palearctic ecoregion in the British Isles … Wikipedia
Beech — For the babyfood, see Beech Nut .Taxobox name = Beech image width = 260px image caption = European Beech leaves and cupules regnum = Plantae divisio = Magnoliophyta classis = Magnoliopsida ordo = Fagales familia = Fagaceae genus = Fagus genus… … Wikipedia
Forests of the Iberian Peninsula — The woodlands of the Iberian Peninsula are distinct ecosystems on the Iberian Peninsula, spanning mainly Spain and Portugal. Although the various regions are each characterized by distinct vegetation, there are some similarities across the… … Wikipedia
European Beech — Taxobox name = European Beech status = LR/lc image width = 240px image caption = European Beech foliage regnum = Plantae divisio = Magnoliophyta classis = Magnoliopsida ordo = Fagales familia = Fagaceae genus = Fagus species = F. sylvatica… … Wikipedia
Euxine-Colchic deciduous forests — The Euxine Colchic deciduous forests ecoregion, in the Temperate broadleaf and mixed forests Biome, is located along the southern shore of the Black Sea. The ecoregion extends along the thin coastal strip from the southeastern corner of Bulgaria… … Wikipedia
List of forests in the United Kingdom — This is a list of some of the forests in the United Kingdom.EnglandBedfordshire *Forest of Marston ValeBuckinghamshire *Burnham Beeches *Whiteleaf HillCheshire *Delamere ForestCounty Durham * Hamsterly ForestCumbria *Whinfell ForestDerbyshire… … Wikipedia
List of ecoregions (WWF) — This is a list of ecoregions as compiled by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). The WWF identifies terrestrial, freshwater, and marine ecoregions.The terrestrial scheme divides the Earth s land surface into 8 terrestrial ecozones, containing 867… … Wikipedia
Fagus sylvatica — European Beech European Beech foliage Scientific classification Kingdom: Plantae … Wikipedia
Royal forest — A royal forest is an area of land with different meanings in England, Wales and Scotland; the term forest does not mean forest as it is understood today, as an area of densely wooded land. There are also differing and contextual interpretations… … Wikipedia
Crimean Submediterranean forest complex — The Crimean Submediterranean forest complex ecoregion, in the temperate mixed forest Biome, is of Russia and Ukraine. Contents 1 Distribution 2 Description 3 Culture … Wikipedia