Efficient and sustainable use of floodplains for enhanced productivity

Lead Research Organisation: Open University
Department Name: Faculty of Sci, Tech, Eng & Maths (STEM)

Abstract

Ancient woodlands are those woodlands which have been continuously forested for several centuries (a UK definition classifies woods over 400 years old as ancient). In the UK they have declined dramatically as farmland and urban development have increased. With an increasing urban population and a major demand for housebuilding, remaining ancient woodlands are coming under additional pressure from urban expansion. In Milton Keynes, a 'new town' constructed in the open countryside in the 1960s as the city has grown, three patches of ancient woodland have become surrounded by urban development, potentially isolating them and exposing them to environmental impacts from local warming and drought to increased nutrient deposition. This project aims to use these sites as experimental areas for the study of impacts of urbanisation on ancient woodlands that will have relevance to these important habitats across the UK and further afield. It will combine a range of techniques from ecology to landscape history and biogeochemistry to assess the consequences for ancient woodlands of being incorporated into the urban landscape. An important element of the project is establishing fixed monitoring sites as the foundation for long-term monitoring of environmental change in these urban woodlands. Ultimately it will seek to understand whether and how ancient woodlands can survive in the face of urban expansion and inform the emerging debate about land sparing and land sharing approaches to conservation in urbanising landscapes.

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