Sunday, November 24, 2013

New Forest: example of grazed parkland?

On Saturday, I had a chance to walk through the New Forest with Mary Edwards, Tony Brown, and Shinya Sugita.

The New Forest has a long, fascinating history stretching back thousands of years. Today, it is a national park where ponies graze and pigs pannage in the fall for acorns and beechnuts.

There are several vegetation types in the New Forest from lightly grazed heathlands to more productive forest parklands.

The parklands are interesting. 

Here, we have an open woodland. Large trees towering above a closely cropped lawn. 

For some, a scene like this represents a prehuman landscape. When aurochs and other megafauna roamed the landscape, this may been typical. 

The pollen records have been ambiguous to this point. Shinya's work on landscape openness shows that most pollen records have been selected to represent regional vegetation. Understanding local patterns requires sampling in a different manner. So, pollen records cannot say one way or the other whether this existed. 

Tony talked about beetle assemblages being used to reconstruct past vegetation. They would not support the existence of a system like this.

Franz Vera has put together other evidence that says these systems did exist and we should work to recreate them. He interprets historical records and the modern ecology of species to say that these systems did exist and we should work to promote them. 

Today, there is little regeneration of the overstory trees. Browsing pressure is too high. Pannaging also might be preventing regeneration. Based on this, one would say this landscape is a cultural artifact.

But is it just a small tweak to the system to maintain this? 

That is something worthy of study.

No comments:

Post a Comment