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Regeneration of Oak-Birch Woodland Following Exclusion of Sheep

C. D. Pigott
Journal of Ecology
Vol. 71, No. 2 (Jul., 1983), pp. 629-646
DOI: 10.2307/2259738
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2259738
Page Count: 18
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Regeneration of Oak-Birch Woodland Following Exclusion of Sheep
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Abstract

(1) Sheep have been excluded for 26 years from 1.12 ha of woodland dominated by Quercus petraea, Betula pendula and B. pubescens in which there had been no regeneration of oak for at least 50 years and only limited regeneration of birch. (2) Outside the enclosure there is still no regeneration and the field-layer has remained a closely grazed sward of Deschampsia flexuosa. (3) Inside the enclosure D. felxuosa has grown taller and Vaccinium myrtillus has greatly increased both in cover and in height. (4) Seedlings of Betula spp. are plentiful every year in the grazed field-layer but most are rapidly destroyed; they are almost absent from the ungrazed field-layer. A proportion of those present within the enclosed area in 1955-56 have survived and are now saplings 1-4 m tall but there is no evidence of subsequent recruitment. (5) Seedlings of Quercus petraea occur both inside and outside the enclosure in those years following large crops of acorns. Outside they are destroyed but inside a proportion of each crop survives to give successive recruitments to the population of saplings. (6) Adequate regeneration of Q. petraea has been achieved simply by excluding sheep. The tallest saplings are now 4-5 m high. There is no evidence that climatic or edaphic conditions are seriously inhibitory. (7) Oak has regenerated both in gaps and beneath the canopy of oak so that, with protection, the proportion of oak is likely to continue to increase and that of birch to decline. (8) Brown podzolic soils and humo-ferric podzols persist both inside and outside the enclosure but the humose horizons inside have become much less compact and contain higher densities of fine roots and mycorrhizae of the trees. This may increase growth rate and reduce mortality of the trees.

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