This traditional method of managing broadleaf deciduous woodland or where there is a density of this tree type has been used in the UK for hundreds of years.
This can seem a somewhat extreme method of encouraging new growth, as it involves cutting the tree to stump just above ground level, but it actively encourages new shoots to develop from the parent plant.
Coppicing as a practice in Tree Surgery or especially Woodland Management is completed on a cycle which varies between different species of tree and it can greatly increase the lifespan of the individual tree by keeping the tree in an early stage of its overall life or development.
Potential benefits to local wildlife
Woodland Managers strongly encourage this practice in dense areas, as it not only extends the life of the trees, it can also create a superb habitat for a range of other plants, animals and invertebrates. This is due to the amount of light that is able to reach the ground, therefore encouraging fertility and new growth in the surrounding areas.
How this work is carried out
Winter is most definitely the appropriate time for this work as it is easier to work on the tree bark which is less likely to tear from the wood, potentially damaging the tree.
The finished stump is cut and harvested on a rotational cycle, with trees left to grow for a number of years before they are cut back to around 15cm above the ground level, therefore starting the process over again.
Clean cuts should be made to the stump with no splits in the wood itself, and should have a sloping edge allowing water to run off, which in turn prevents unwanted decay. Rotations do depend on the species, but a typical time period is seven to eight yearly cycles, and really depends on what the material the off-cuts will be used for.
Protection to the stumps from animals is recommended, and typically small fences are installed. A cheaper method is using brush, piling this on top of the stumps to protect them.
Coppiced woodlands offer materials that can be used as sustainable firewood, fences, gates, baskets, charcoal and many other sustainable uses.
Trees most suitable for coppicing are:
- Sweet Chestnut