A pilot study investigates habitat use in slow-worms and common lizards at a nature reserve in Peterborough, to see whether coppicing had a negative impact on reptile presence.
The coppicing of trees is an often used conservation management technique that is used to allegedly enhance habitats for wildlife. Though the benefits of coppicing has been shown for several species, particularly birds, the response of reptiles to this type of management had not been investigated.
For this pilot study, 18 different sites on the joint nature reserve Collyweston Great Wood and Eastern Hornstocks were monitored from June to August 2013. At each site 3 open areas were surveyed, 3 areas with young coppice (2-6 years old) and 3 areas with older coppice (9-17 years old). The areas were monitored with grids of 25 artificial refugia made of roofing felt or corrugated bitumen 3-6 times per week, morning and afternoon. 41 common lizards and 102 slow-worms were found during the study period, but only in the open areas. Though this was a small scale study, it is possible that in accordance with other work on the effects of canopy cover on reptiles, that their presence was not observed due to the unsuitable micro-habitats underneath the refugia created by the shady canopy above.
Though more research needs to be conducted in this area, this pilot study suggests that reptiles either did not occur, or occurred in much lower densities in coppiced areas of small-leaved lime trees. This small study strengthens the case for maintaining open areas in woodlands through practices such as clear felling.
(Alexia Fish, London Dragon Finder Ecologist)
Affiliated with the University of Aberdeen and sponsored by The Sir Maitland Mackie Scholarship for Environmental and Rural Land Use and the Amphibian and Reptile Group UK Grant.
Fish, A. C. M. 2016. Common lizards (Zootoca vivipara) and slow-worms (Anguis fragilis) are not found in coppiced small-leaved lime (Tilia cordata) areas of a Northamptonshire – Cambridgshire nature reserve. The Herpetological Bulletin. No. 134, pp. 26-27