A critical assessment of botanical indicators as historic markers in wooded landscapes

WRIGHT, Barry (2016). A critical assessment of botanical indicators as historic markers in wooded landscapes. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University.

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Abstract

Extensive critical review of literature and stakeholder interrogation provided key research questions and paradigms. They are explained in the introductory chapters. Approaches to the understanding and assessment of woods and of hedgerows (as linear ‘woodlands’) were developed and tested through intensive and extensive field-based case studies. This research investigated and critically assessed the role and value of using botanical indicators as historic markers in wooded landscapes that comprise woodlands and hedgerows. These are linked by social history and ecology. In both habitat types, there have been recent attempts to determine their age and origins based on current floras. Ancient woodlands (i.e. present pre-1600) are determined by reference to regional ancient woodland indicator species (AWI) lists. Hedgerows have been dated by counting the number of woody species in sections (the Hooper Rule) to provide an estimate of hedgerow age. In this study, both the derivation of ancient woodland indicator species and the dating of hedgerows using the 'Hooper Rule' were questioned. In particular, the survey methods applied in these situations were critically analysed. For woodlands, there has been only limited emphasis on recording the local variations in flora within woodland. The woody species counting for hedgerows took little account of the species involved. Stakeholder opinion was canvassed using a series of four woodland workshops where the role of AWI was discussed. This generated questions the outcomes of which agreed with this research that new methods of data collection and interpretation were needed. Furthermore, the current patterns of the use of ancient woodland indicator species at regional or county level were considered and assessed. The need for a new approach to surveying woodlands and hedgerows to collect data relevant to historic interpretation was addressed. Appropriate methodologies were proposed and tested. A novel approach to interpretation was developed that considered the nature of a species used as an historic marker: where it was, how abundant it was and if there were any other associated species in combination. This intelligent interrogation process is a radical departure from current approaches to using only the presence of botanical species as historic markers. The overall conclusion of this research is that botanical species are valuable and powerful historic markers if their presence is considered carefully and intelligently based on adequately detailed surveys. This original approach has added to scientific knowledge and the understanding of botanical species as historic markers. New practitioner and researcher toolkits were developed and tested, and novel approaches to the evaluation of woods and hedgerows using cross-disciplinary methods were proposed.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Research Institute, Centre or Group: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Depositing User: Helen Garner
Date Deposited: 24 Oct 2017 09:22
Last Modified: 24 Oct 2017 22:38
URI: http://shura.shu.ac.uk/id/eprint/17157

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