Ecology Groups...

About Friends of Ecclesall Woods An Ecology group was formed soon after the launch of FEW. Early surveys dealt with the problems of the moment, like the fungus attack on sweet chestnut trees during the second part of the 1990's. Nowadays (since 1999) the survey results are plotted on a large map, and give an overall picture of the survey results.

The Woods are divided into 22 areas of different sizes for the purpose of the survey, and each member of the group is assigned a particular area. This means that the surveyor gets to know an area well, and can see small changes from year to year which may be significant for the overall ecology. The time taken depends on the year's project, but is seldom more than a few hours distributed over 2 or more visits. The intimate knowledge gained of one's area is a pleasure in itself.

1999. The first mapped survey was on the distribution of bluebells. See map. We also looked at the distribution of Greater Stitchwort (Stellaria holostea) and Sanicle (Sanicula europaea)

2000. Honeysuckle. (Lonicera periclymenum) The results of this survey found honeysuckle plentiful and widely distributed through the Woods. It seldom climbs, and seldom flowers, probably because of the very low levels of light in summer under the tree canopy.

2001. Early Spring Flowers. Four species were chosen:

All except lesser celandine are indicator species, which means that their occurrence points to the probability that the woodland is ancient. The survey (map) showed that wood sorrel and golden saxifrage tolerate considerable shade, whereas wood anemone and lesser celandine prefer situations with more light, often near the edges of the Woods.

About Friends of Ecclesall Woods 2002-3. We surveyed two grasses, Creeping Soft Grass or Holcus Mollis, and Wavy Hair Grass or Deschampsia Flexuosa. (Map). There are many other native grass species in the Woods. Holcus Mollis is widespread and common, while wavy hair grass is restricted to areas of poor and acid soil, where it is often found with bilberry. Bilberries do not fruit in the woods, again because of low light levels.

2004. We looked at the regeneration of elm trees, after Dutch Elm disease has destroyed almost all the mature elms in the woods. Two mature elms remain, in the midst of dense stands of trees of other species. We were very encouraged to find that there are many young wych elms, some about 5m high. These trees will be watched for any recurrence of the disease. We also looked at Spanish and hybrid bluebells, to evaluate their spread and the effect on the native bluebells.

2005. This year's survey concentrated on finding, and destroying, Himalayan Balsam. This is an annual plant, with seed capsules that explode and spread the seeds around it. One plant soon becomes many; it is very invasive, and crowds out native plants unless controlled. The plant grows to about 1.5m, and the pink flowers are pretty in August-September. A few are good, but the spread must be controlled. It seems that the clearing in 2005 was effective, as only a few plants are left. The Footpath group also controls Himalayan Balsam. (point to picture in Flora)

2006. We counted the number of mature oak trees in the Woods. A mature oak tree was defined as having a trunk 1m in circumference at chest height, which probably means that the tree is 150-200 years old. It was a surprise to find over 2000 mature oaks, and the survey was incomplete for lack of volunteers.

2007. We looked at the regeneration of areas where trees had been cut, as part of the programme for renewing the woods. Oak regeneration, in particular, was surprisingly good, with many seedlings 6-20" high. Foxgloves had sprung up in wood 3, making a spectacular show, but were not present in wood 2 felled areas. These have holly, hazel, sycamore, brambles, and raspberry in the shrub layer, as well as the oak seedlings.

About Friends of Ecclesall Woods 2008-9. This was a two-year project, with two types of survey. One part was carried out as part of a Sheffield Hallam University project to look at trees of particular interest. Each surveyor chose a remarkable tree in their area, and visited it through the year to record wildlife around the tree, surrounding vegetation, and changes in the tree itself. The second part was a survey of sedges and rushes. Some of these are indicator plants for ancient woodland. This was a difficult project, as many sedges can only be identified when in flower. Nonetheless, remote sedge, an indicator, was found to be colonising new areas, and vanishing from some where it had been seen before.

2010. We looked at summer flowers. This project is not yet finished, but it is already clear that the majority of summer flowers are found at the wood edges and along pathways, as one would expect. Only wood avens, enchanters' nightshade, and brambles flower in the heavily shaded interior.

For more information on the Ecology group, click here

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Ecclesall Woods
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