Over the last 18 months Sylva Foundation has been working with the Deer Initiative, grant-funded by Forestry Commission England and Natural England, to develop new functionality in myForest that will allow land owners and managers to create Deer Management Plans and collate annual monitoring data.
All six species of deer have increased in density and range nationally over the last 40 years. As deer populations have increased, their impact on the ground flora and the structure of woods has increased considerably, in particular the impact of fallow and muntjac in lowland woodlands.
The impact of deer on woodland biodiversity may be positive at low population densities. However at high densities deer browsing alters three elements in a woodland: regeneration potential, woodland structure, and ground flora diversity and abundance. Impacts on these elements have ramifications for species that use them as habitat and food. Species affected by these changes in structure and flora include populations of butterflies, other invertebrates, smaller mammals, birds, and their predators.
Collaborative, landscape-scale management of deer populations is key to helping address the issue of high deer populations in woodlands. Five priority areas (see map) have been identified in England in which to focus efforts where deer are having a particular impact on priority sites such as SSSI woodlands. In these areas landowners can receive additional support from the Deer Initiative to organise collaborative action across landscapes.
Although this functionality has been specifically developed for use in the five priority areas, we hope it will be useful to users across England, and indeed in Scotland and Wales.
The functionality is currently being tested and the planned launch date is 1st October.