UKTC Archive

Re: England's Trees woods and Forests consult.

Subject: Re: England's Trees woods and Forests consult.
From: Pete Hughes
Date: May 24 2006 20:58:36 wrote:
That aside, there is interesting research being done on the diversity of species on shooting estates. As I understand it where the traditional shooting management, burning off heather, trapping and shooting foxes and some corvids, has significant benefits to the survival of other species.... I believe the results of this research are so clear that the RSPB have had to withdraw from the project, cos politically they can't see their members accepting the results....?
I have issues about this sort of research, not only because I personally find shooting on such estates for recreation morally indefensible. Killing foxes, corvids etc. (not forgetting illegal persecution of birds of prey) may result in higher numbers of certain species and we are told that this is 'good'. But again, I feel this is somewhat egocentric of humans to suggest that they can do a better job than nature which has developed such predator/prey relationships over thousands of millenia. The suggestion is that the greater the population of a certain species, the better, as if it is the absolute numbers of such species is all that matters. But is this 'natural'? Would nature, left to it's own devices, find a lower but stable level of such populations?

I also feel that much of the basis for such management is flawed - foxes for example will find their own population level and if anything, attempts to control them may well lead to a higher population than would be natural (Stephen Harris, Bristol University has much to say on this subject). Again it's man thinking he can do better than nature.

But then I'm sceptical about the aims of such management; in general I feel that many of the suggested 'benefits' to other species as a result of management for shooting are incidental (the main aim of the management plan is after all, to provide as many birds as possible to be shot) and are used to justify an activity that many people find distasteful or even abhorrent. Often the negative aspects are swept under the carpet - e.g. factory farming of pheasant chicks, persecution of birds of prey, burying shot birds rather than eating them. I think many humans have a habit of scapegoating some predator species (corvids etc.) when quite often the real reason for a decline in, say, songbirds probably has more to do with loss of habitat and intensive agriculture.

Although I was saddened by the shooting of the wolves, I had to laugh at the reason given - they were too 'fierce' apparently. What did the landowner expect?????

As for evolution/extinction, I sometimes wonder if we're trying to play God too much. Thousands of species have become extinct historically, yet we intervene to try to keep some species going even if they have perhaps reached an evolutionary deadend - would a species that can only survive if man manages it's habitat have been out-evolved in a natural ecosystem?

Regarding climax vegetation, I quite agree there are differing opinions. I read an article once in the New Scientist that suggested that much of Britain would have been covered with a type of 'wood-pasture' as a result of the presence of browsing/grazing animals (as Jerry D points out). But in the post glacial period, high forest may have been more widespread. This brings two thoughts to mind: one, nature is far more dynamic than we are prepared to accept (again, this comes back to extinctions) and, two, do we worry too much about the impact of deer, wild boar etc. on ground flora that some important research suggests was far less widespread historically than we like to admit.

It's all very confusing! And, yes, probably more theoretical/philosophical than pragmatic in a world where in my opinion we don't give wild habitats enough importance.

Thanks, Bill and everyone else, for your responses.



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