Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

, Volume 17, Issue 5, pp 551–562 | Cite as

Conserving idealized landscapes: past history, public perception and future management in the New Forest (UK)

  • Michael J. Grant
  • Mary E. Edwards
Original Article


The New Forest is one of the most visited regions of Britain. It has recently been designated a National Park in recognition of its unique wood pasture ecosystems, a traditional land-use system, its magnificent scenery and recreational potential, and its biodiversity importance. The Forest’s highly prized Ancient and Ornamental (A&O) woodlands are a result of complex interactions among human activities of several kinds and the ecology of the dominant species–beech and oak—under the climate conditions of the last one to two millennia. Major changes in management practices over the 20th century, combined with the historical imprint of previous centuries of use, have set the A&O woodlands on a trajectory that means their nature and appearance will inevitably change over the coming decades. When the potential stresses that will be imposed by 21st century climate change are also considered, it will be challenging to find a management strategy to maintain A&O woodlands in their present form. Beech, which owes its current dominance largely to human disturbances of the woodland ecosystem, will be particularly stressed under future conditions. Future conservation policies, and hence management strategies, must be flexible as to the species composition and structure of future woodlands. However, the wide range of users and their different values add further complexity to forest management, and managers must also focus on issues of public perception. For example visitors idealize current landscapes, and this exerts a pressure to maintain the status quo as far as appearance is concerned that will be hard to achieve in practice. Management strategies will be greatly constrained unless conflicts about values and uses are resolved.


New Forest Wood pasture Nature conservation Fagus Forest management 



Part of this research was funded through a Ph.D. scholarship awarded to MJG jointly by the School of Geography, University of Southampton, and the John Lewis Partnership. Radiocarbon dates were provided by NERC and analysed at the NERC Radiocarbon Laboratory, East Kilbride. We thank Prof. Keith Barber, Dr. Alastair Brown, Tim Daley, Dr. Leanne Franklin-Smith, Dr. Paul Hughes, Dr. Paul Combes, Dr. Jenny Schultz and Sue Way for their assistance during fieldwork. We also thank Dr. Jonathan Spencer of the Forestry Commission for allowing access to carry out fieldwork. We thank Prof. Marie-José Gaillard for the invitation to present this paper at the HITE-PolLandCal Conference in Umeå, Sweden, 13–14 November 2005, and the PolLandCal Network, sponsored by NorFA (Nordic Council of Advanced Studies), for providing financial assistance to participate in the conference. Two anonymous referees are thanked for comments and suggestions that led to the improvement of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Earth and Environmental Science Research, School of Earth Sciences and GeographyKingston UniversityKingston upon ThamesUK
  2. 2.School of GeographyUniversity of SouthamptonSouthamptonUK

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