Ghyll woodlands of the Weald: characterisation and conservation
Burnside, Niall, Metcalfe, Daniel J., Smith, Roger and Waite, S. (2006) Ghyll woodlands of the Weald: characterisation and conservation Biodiversity and Conservation, 15 (4). pp. 1319-1338. ISSN 0960-3115
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Ghylls are linear valley features cut into the sandy beds of the Weald of south-eastern England. The ghyll's indigenous woodlands are highly species rich at the small scale, support distinctive assemblages of cryptogamic plants, and are unique to south-east England. Field surveys were carried out for 48 ghyll woodlands in the Weald with a GIS used to examine the ecology, landform and conservation status of the ghyll woodlands. The data were analysed using spatial and multi-variate techniques in order to identify sub-groups or ghyll woodland communities based upon species composition, topography and geology. The ghylls are shown to be reasonably uniform for canopy vegetation type and structure and for their geological and soil characteristics. However, analysis shows that geomorphology, understorey and field layer variability may act as stronger indicators of site conditions and character. Further analysis focused on the level and extent of nature conservation protection that these unique and ancient systems receive. The study concludes that despite their ecological importance and potentially international significance, ghyll woodlands are poorly understood and protected.
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