Biodiversity Technical Factsheets by FWAG

Practical Tips for Improving Biodiversity in Woodland

These practical management tips are a foretaste of the wide range of advice now available on the FWAG website in the Farmland Biodiversity and Environmentally Responsible Farming sections:

1.  Standing dead timber is important for a variety of wildlife. In older woodland, with selected trees, dangerous limbs and branches can be lopped and stacked around the base. In young woodland, thinnings can be stood up and fastened around a tree like a wigwam – providing light, shade, dry and damp shelter and feeding habitats.

2.  Deadwood stacks attract mosses, fungi, beetles, and molluscs – these in turn provide food for other wildlife, as the rotting wood is naturally re-cycled. Leaving a succession of stacks is better than large amounts at one go. Brushwood stacks provide cover for wildlife and game birds.


The sulphur tuft fungus is one of hundreds that may grow on rotting logs. Some only grow on a few or even one species. This one grows on a variety of timber. Here it is thriving with mosses on an old oak log in a damp, shady part of the woodland

3.  Veteran and old trees and shrubs are usually the richest in wildlife. They develop rough bark, crevices, wet runs and dead wood, which attract a whole range of wildlife. Species such as elder and birch are short-lived compared with ash and oak so provide attractive habitat much quicker.

4.  A variety of tree/shrub species for wildlife is much preferred as many insects, larvae, fungi, mosses and lichens are associated with a small group, or even a single species of tree or shrub.

5.  Leaf litter and chippings also provide important habitat for fungi, mosses and insects as well as shelter and hibernation sites for small mammals and amphibians. Left in piles, used as mulch for young trees and spread thickly, chippings will increase the diversity of habitats and wildlife.

Song thrushes build their nest in dense cover, particularly in woodland edge and hedges. They are able to find slugs and snails in the leaf litter beneath the shrubs and around rotting logs

6.  Ground flora is an important part of the woodland but is sometimes overlooked. Advice is available on how to introduce plants and other wildlife through seed, plants or just leaf litter from another site. It is important to try to use material from the nearest local source.

7.  Woodland edge is often the best woodland habitat for a variety of birds, insects and plants so careful planning of the shape and composition of the plantings on the outside of the wood is important for wildlife. A variety of species, light, shade, damp and dry will provide the widest range.


Linnets sometimes nest fairly close together. Here the nest is in a dense hawthorn hedge bordering woodland. They may sometimes also nest colonially in young, mixed plantations.

8.  Hedges around a woodland edge can provide shelter for trees, ground flora and game birds. It also provides a graded height habitat between the field and the trees – an important wildlife and landscape feature.

9.  The importance of hawthorn may get overlooked – mainly because they usually occur in regularly trimmed hedgerows. Old or veteran hawthorn – and other shrubs that have grown on into standards are important habitat for some of our rarer beetles.

10.  Bramble and nettle are sometimes removed from woodland during ‘clearing up’ work. Left to flourish alongside sunny rides and woodland edges they provide cover and important food for a wide range of insects, small mammals and birds.


Cow parsley flowering in a woodland glade is providing an important source of nectar for many insects. Later the seeds will be available to birds and small mammals

Further information

For further information including possible grant aid contact your local FWAG Adviser and visit the FWAG website at

Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy in the information sheet. However, FWAG cannot accept liability for any errors or omission.
Photographs by John Clarke.
Author John Clarke and FWAG
34.1 Jan 2004

ADLib logo Content provided by the Agricultural Document Library
© University of Hertfordshire, 2011