1.2 – Differentiate between broad leaved and coniferous woodland ecosystems

Broad Leaf Woodland

Broad leaf woodlands are made up of trees with leaves which, whilst they vary in size and shape, are not needle like. Most trees found in broad leaf woodlands are native to Britain. The most common are Oak (Sessile and Pedunculate) and Birch (Silver and Downy) but Ash, Sycamore and Beech are also widespread. Broad leaf woodlands are the traditional British woodland though there is now little left of Britain’s ancient woodland.

Most trees in broad leaf woods are deciduous though some, such as Holly, are evergreen. As most trees lose their leaves every autumn the appearance of the woodland changes drastically depending on the season. As the leaves and other leaf litter decompose nutrients are released into the soil. The fallen leaves also provide nesting materials for birds and animals and hiding places for insects. As the canopy is bare for several months greater light levels will reach the ground before the trees regrow their leaves. This gives species in the other woodland layers a greater chance to grow, flower and seed.

As well as providing habitats for hundreds and thousands of species of plant, animal and insect broad leaf woodlands play a crucial role is soaking up some of the regular large downpours we get in this country and their presence can prevent or limit damage caused by flooding.

Coniferous Woodland

Coniferous woodland is predominantly made up of conifer trees. Conifers are trees with scale like leaves or needles. Most species of conifer are evergreen. As well as being identified by their distinctive leaves or needles conifers have a distinctive profile as most conifer trees tend to grow up instead of out. The only conifers recognised as being native to Britain are Yew, Juniper and Scots Pine. Many coniferous woodlands are now dominated by non-native species such as Douglas Fir and Sitka Spruce.

Many coniferous woodlands, such as large areas of Cannock Chase, have been planted and are managed for timber production and competing species tend to be removed. This results in the woodland having little variety of tree species. Whilst most broad lead woodlands are characterised by the species of tree present most coniferous woodland is characterised by the density of the tree planting and the topography of the land.

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