HUGO STRAKER says: The Game Conservancy Trust has been involved in SRC research over the last 15 years or so. Early findings pointed to SRC providing useful breeding and over-wintering habitats for both songbirds and pheasants (and butterflies) provided the blocks of coppice were interspersed with other farm habitats. Each plot should ideally be kept small and elongated to maximise edge habitats.
Wildlife benefited most in those plots that comprised of low growing, multi-stemmed willow species and where there was a full complement of age classes. Pheasants preferred plots where the coppice was kept low and shrubby along the margins and those where
rides had been incorporated.
Recent research, by the Game Conservancy Trust’s woodland game ecologists, has focused on whether birds associated with open farmland would be displaced by planting SCR.
Snipe, woodcock, lapwing, fieldfare and skylark all use SRC at different stages of management and season, as do red legged partridges; however, no research has been done on the impact of SRC in wild grey partridge country, and I personally would be nervous over its impact.
A profitable biomass venture would likely require a ‘worthwhile’ acreage, which could result in the loss of open arable landscape habitat that grey partridge prefer. The greys, along with many other declining farmland birds, are unlikely to adapt to monocultures of densely growing bio-energy crops.
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