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Speaker: Jonathan Spencer, Forest Planning & Environment Manager, Forest Enterprise, Forestry Commission England
The New Forest in Hampshire is one of the largest remaining tracts of semi-natural vegetation left in lowland England. It is certainly the largest contiguous block of lowland native forest and heathland. It retains a suite of grazing animals analogous to the wild deer, aurochs and boar that were present in antiquity, with the continuous presence throughout history of commoners cattle, pigs and ponies, and of course the Kings deer. Thus, though comprised largely of native plant communities, and very rich in rare plants and animals lost from most of the surrounding landscape, it is far from genuinely natural. It is though extremely important for its biodiversity. It has a very long and very well documented history as an Ancient Royal Forest dating back to the 11th Century, and an extremely well documented natural history dating back to the 17th Century, and numerous and more recent rigorous scientific studies and research undertaken over the last 50 years. Present day studies are firmly based on this wealth of information about the past land use and ecology of the Forest.
This presentation intends to provide some insight into the nature of both the ecology and the historical land use of the New Forest, and its scope as an arena for future studies. It also explores the lessons that can be drawn from the New Forest in understanding the long term consequences of human exploitation of forest ecosystems in temperate Europe…as well as any lessons that might have wider application elsewhere in the world.
Jonathan Spencer has a comprehensive background in land use, forestry and nature conservation, having worked for 13 years with the Nature Conservancy Council and English Nature followed by 18 years with the Forestry Commission, first in the New Forest in Hampshire, later as Senior Ecologist and more recently as Head of Planning and Environment for Forest Enterprise England.
He has been engaged in a very wide range of conservation and forest management projects, from rare species reintroductions to the integration of biodiversity conservation with forest management across the UK. His experience extends from the conservation of rare snails and beetles through to the management of the 23,000ha of the internationally acclaimed New Forest.
Jonathan’s interests now lie with establishing forest resilience against climate change and economic challenges, the application of GIS to forest environmental operations and monitoring, and the multiple mechanisms of policy delivery; direct management of land; grant support; NGO led partnerships; negotiations with Government bodies, along with the development of staff guidance and training.