Coppice management effects on experimentally established populations of three herbaceous layer woodland species


Traditional coppice management creates a temporal release of resources. We determined how this affected three herbaceous species (Cardamine pratensis, Primula elatior and Geum urbanum) and if it was suitable for their conservation within woodland given their differing phenologies and habitat affinities for woodland. Reproductive adults were transplanted and their fate, i.e. survival and counts of leafs and flowers, plus the fate of their progeny, were monitored for three years following cutting of coppice shoots (three light levels) or yearly autumn mowing. Cardamine pratensis and P. elatior produced more flowers with increasing light availability. Mowing increased flower and leaf production with time for P. elatior. Seedling numbers followed a similar trend. Geum urbanum initially produced more flowers with increasing light and when mown, but the effect disappeared and did not increase seedling numbers. Its basal leaves showed the opposite pattern. Population growth rates (λ), calculated for P. elatior and G. urbanum, confirmed the strong treatment effects on the former and the absence of effects on the latter. Yet, decomposition of treatment effects, showed considerable flexibility in life history of G. urbanum, except for contributions of fecundity. The latter, however, contributed most to positive effects on λ for P. elatior. Early flowering species with an affinity for open habitats (C. pratensis >P. elatior) benefited more from temporal resource release than the later flowering, typical woodland species. Coppice management thereby maintains both typical forest herbs and herbs with affinity for more open habitats. This is an important conservation tool especially in intensively managed landscapes.

In Biological Conservation