Effects of differing landscape scale woodland creation strategies on habitat connectivity and suitability for woodland plants.
One of the primary goals of conservation schemes is to increase the connectivity of available habitat for focal species. When devising habitat creation or restoration measures however it is important to balance biodiversity benefits with resource production needs and to reduce the potential negative impacts of habitat creation on displaced habitat types. Here three possible woodland restoration scenarios were simulated, based on contrasting management recommendations, using a representative 1 km2 sample of British countryside. The changes in woodland connectivity after these changes were applied were then investigated, as was the likely impact on the suitability of affected habitat types for various groups of non-woodland species. The greatest benefit to connectivity within this landscape, particularly for species with low dispersal abilities, was reached through targeted creation of small areas of woodland on semi-natural habitat between existing woodland patches. Although creating woodland on habitats such as acid grassland and heath resulted in the greatest increase in habitat suitability for woodland specialist plants, this land-sparing type strategy also led to a large reduction in habitat suitability for species associated with the replaced semi-natural habitats. Consequently, the smaller connectivity gain from a land-sharing approach where woodland is expanded onto improved land may be preferable where valuable semi-natural habitat is present in a landscape.