Land area with a covering of trees and shrubs. While forests have complete coverage of the land surface by the tree canopy, woodlands have broken canopy coverage, which can be as low as 10%, and also include shrub coverage in their area.
The character of a wood is determined by its trees. Sometimes a single species dominates, as in a pine or beech wood, but often there is mixture of two or more co-dominants, as in a mixed oak and ash wood. Beneath the tree canopy there is frequently a layer of shrubs and beneath these herbs. Woodland herbs grow in shady conditions and are adapted in various ways to make the best possible use of the available sunlight. The woodland floor provides moist conditions in which mosses and liverworts thrive and many fungi grow in the soil or on rotting wood. The trees themselves provide habitats for other groups, including climbing plants, masses, liverworts, lichens, fungi, and microscopic algae.
Temperate climates, with four distinct seasons a year, tend to support a mixed woodland habitat, with some conifers but mostly broad-leaved and deciduous trees, shedding their leaves in autumn and regrowing them in spring. In the Mediterranean region and parts of the southern hemisphere, the trees are mostly evergreen. Temperate woodlands grow in the zone between the cold coniferous forests and the tropical forests of the hotter climates near the Equator. They develop in areas where the closeness of the sea keeps the climate mild and moist.
In England in 1900, about 2.5% of land was woodland, compared to about 3.4% in the 11th century. An estimated 33% of ancient woodland has been destroyed since 1945. The rise in public awareness of environmental issues has led to increased protection of woodland areas. This has resulted in the formation of conservation societies such as the Woodland Trust to protect and promote good management of woodland areas. In 2013, the woodland area in the UK was 3.1 million hectares, with 1.4 million hectares being independently and sustainably managed (see sustainable development). Between 2012 and 2013, 11,000 hectares of new woodland were created. By June 2013, 133 projects involving 14,200 hectares of woodland were registered under the Woodland Carbon Code to capture a projected 5.2 million tonnes of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (see carbon sequestration).
Ecosystems: Temperate Coniferous (Boreal) Woodlands
Ecosystems: Temperate Deciduous Woodlands