Woodland offers a habitat or home for many of our native species of plants and animals. It forms a rich habitat with its ground layer of bluebells, violets and primroses and its shrub layer and associated tree canopy. Trees provide birds with food, cover, nest sites and song posts. Food is available directly in the form of buds, seeds and fruit and indirectly as a result of the insect life that plants support.
Some of our native trees in the UK such as oak, ash, birch and hawthorn support numbers of insects which in turn are a source of food for many species of birds such as tree creepers, blue tits, wrens and warblers. Many of these insects are dependent on woodlands for their homes. Other birds like the blackbird, the thrush and the wood pigeon eat the berries and seeds of trees and shrubs during the winter when other food is scarce.
Trees also offer shelter from harsh weather and cover for nesting birds. An old decaying tree with a hole or cavity in its trunk may become the home of an owl. Smaller holes may be used as nest sites by blue tits and great tits. Accumulated leaves on woodland floor are an ideal food for many species of insects which in turn are eaten by woodland birds.
Well established woodland areas are also inhabited by mammals such as the fox, the red and grey squirrel and the red deer. The squirrel is the mammal most closely associated with trees. The red and grey squirrel are easily distinguished by colour. The red is distributed over most of the country but being shyer than the grey is not seen as often. Both species eat the seed of woodland trees.
BENEFITS OF TREES
We need trees:
- because they are beautiful; enrich our lives and are nature’s way of renewing the air that we breathe
- to breathe – trees absorb carbon dioxide and give oxygen for us to breathe – a necessity of life. A mature tree produces a significant amount of oxygen in any given year. Trees also help to filter dust and pollution. A single row of trees can reduce street dust in the air by 25%
- to soften our sometimes drab surroundings, to screen ugly buildings and to create space
- to shelter us, our buildings, and our crops from wind, heat loss, rain and strong sunshine
- to maintain the balance of nature. By their seasonal changes trees create a habitat for plants and wildlife
- for timber to build our houses and schools and to make paper. All the books that you read and even this fact sheet started life as a tree
- to make the landscapes more varied and interesting and to provide food and shelter for birds, insects and other animals. Broadleaved trees help to keep the soil healthy and productive by bringing up essential minerals from the soil and returning them to the ground in the form of autumn leaves, which make the best and richest organic compost for your gardening.