Woodland grazing toolbox

Woodland grazing toolbox

3.2 The location and extent of each habitat

You will need to map your habitats; both woodland and open ground. You may have some of this information already, in the form of past surveys of Native Woodland Condition (PDF 116KB) , Phase 1 habitats or National Vegetation Classification (NVC) communities.

You may be able to base your habitat map partly on these existing surveys but it is likely that you will need additional information to produce a map that provides the habitat information needed for the grazing plan.

A habitat map is a key component of a woodland grazing plan. It should cover your whole woodland grazing area and show both the wooded and open ground habitats. If possible, the location of key features should be included.

An Ordnance Survey map at a scale of 1:10,000 is likely to be an ideal base map for showing your survey information. Do not use a map that has a smaller scale (e.g. 1:25,000). Make sure you include the name of the wood, the date, a key to the information shown, the map scale and an OS grid reference.

View a worked example of a Habitat Survey Map (PDF 133k).


Your habitat map needs to show the extent and distribution of each woodland site type present. Depending on your woodland objectives you may need to subdivide the site types in order to show different NVC communities or BAP priority habitats. Refer to the comparison table to determine the relationship between these three ways of defining woodland areas.

Established woodland regeneration

Mappable areas of established regeneration (areas where there are saplings over 50 centimetres in height at a stocking density of approximately 1100 stems per hectare or more) should be mapped separately.

Areas that do not fit the definition of established regeneration but where there are frequent seedlings should be included in the relevant open ground category. Make a note of these potential regeneration areas on the habitat map.

Areas of young trees too advanced to be checked by browsing animals, e.g. 'pole-stage' trees, should be included in the appropriate woodland site type category.

Open ground and conifer plantation

Map areas of open ground habitat or conifer plantation. There may be a mix of more than one non-wooded habitat type in a given area. Mosaics of open ground habitats (e.g. acid grassland and wet heath) may need to be classified, and mapped, as such.

Mapping a complex woodland structure

Very often, a woodland where controlled livestock grazing is appropriate will have a complex structure. It is important that you do not make the habitat map too complicated. Remember you are creating a map that will form the basis of your assessment of woodland forage productivity and of your Habitat Impact Assessment. Each mapped habitat will need to be assessed and subsequently monitored. It is recommended that you do not define more than six habitats over the whole wood although there may be cases where more are needed.

If your woodland has a complex structure, limiting the number of habitats to a manageable number will require a grouping of habitats. How this is done depends very much on your management objectives for that particular wood.

A mapped habitat may include two or more physically separate areas, e.g. there may be more than one stand of the dry acid woodland type, not physically connected but having characteristics in common that allow you to assess them as one habitat.

You will probably need to simplify the map by ignoring very small areas. For example, if the habitat is an example of dry acid woodland but has small fragments of neutral to base-rich woodland or small glades dominated by bracken, map only the dominant habitat. You may want to mention what you have done in the woodland description section (section 2) of your woodland grazing plan.

If there is an intimate mix of habitats, you will need to map the mix as a mosaic. Record in the map key the proportion of the major components of the mosaic. This is especially important if one or more of the components are key features and significant for meeting management objectives or for determining the forage potential of the woodland.

If it is easier, or more informative, to call a habitat by its BAP habitat name or NVC category, e.g. ‘upland oakwood’ or ‘W17 oak woodland’ rather than ‘acid dry woodland’, feel free to do so.

However, management objectives may require you to sub-divide a woodland type, e.g. dry acid woodland may need to be divided into, say, ‘dry acid - upland oak woodland’ and ‘dry acid -upland birchwood’, and so on. Or management objectives may require you to subdivide a woodland site type into different structural components , e.g moribund oak woodland (structure class 8 in the Herbivore Impact Assessment guidelines) and oak woodland with a range of age classes (structure class 4, 5 or 7 in the guidelines).

The important point is that you need to define habitats that take account of your management objectives, enable you to complete your habitat survey map, provide the appropriate level of detail for the Herbivore Impact Assessment and enable you to assess forage potential, without making the exercise too cumbersome.

Using your habitat survey map

Your habitat survey map should give you enough information to complete columns 1 to 3 of Table 3a and columns 1 and 2 of Table 3b in your woodland grazing plan.