Seeds found in soil strata have revealed that the first forests that spread across the Island after the retreat of the ice-sheets about 12,000 years ago were comprised of oak and hazel trees. These forests may not have been particularly dense and may have had clearings in which animals grazed thus preventing new trees from colonising the open spaces.
The Island’s Wild-flower Projects Officer, Andree Dubbledam, has undertaken a study of remnants of the Island’s first forests and written a document on his findings, published in 2 parts. A summary of the Part 1 is shown below. Part 2 of this study (not shown) looks in detail at the 30 forest remnant areas that have identified and investigated.
Copies of the study The Natural History of Manx Oak/Hazel Woodlands may be obtained by contacting Andree or via the IOM Woodland Trust. The study forms part of the Wildflowers of Mann Project
Oak/hazel woodlands are the Island’s ancient woodland resource. They are the irreplaceable natural capital that contains the most important woodland biodiversity on the Isle of Man.
In this study thirty sites have been identified as probably native oak and or hazel woodland from tiny fragments of less than 0.1ha at Ohio plantation to Glen Roy which covers over 20ha. The total resource is over 127ha. Sites are found around much of the Island, but are concentrated on the north and eastern edge of the Northern Hills, where they generally form narrow ravine woodlands between 50 and 150m in altitude.
The sites are in various conditions from the pristine semi-natural woodland in Narradale through to heavily replanted sites such as Groudle and Glen Maye, which while somewhat diminished, still contain significant conservation value. Many rare and protected species, such as beech fern and wood fescue, are found wholly or mostly within these sites. The study looked primarily at the flora of the woodlands to make assessments of their relative importance, but Dr Keith Alexander, an entomological consultant was contracted to look at woodland slug and snail fauna to corroborate findings from the floral surveys.