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Wytham Woods celebrates 60 years as an SSSI
Wytham Woods
Wytham Woods has been an SSSI since 1950

In 1950 Wytham Woods became a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and now the 415 hectares of woodland is one of the world's most studied habitats.

It is important to current research because of the long term studies that have taken place there.

Even before it became an SSSI research scientists were studying the Great Tits at Wytham.

Now scientists know each bird individually, including when and where they hatched and who their parents are.

Professor Lord Krebs began his research career in 1966 by studying at Wytham.

"If there were a Nobel Prize for Ecology, and if you could award it to a place rather than a person, Wytham Woods would surely be a prime candidate," he told BBC Oxford. The anniversary is being celebrated with the launch of a new book called Wytham Woods: Oxford's Ecological Laboratory.

Bluebells at Wytham Woods
In spring Wytham is carpeted in bluebells

Global warming

Dr Keith Kirby from Natural England is one of the contributors to the book.

"We've got a better picture of all the changes that have been going on in that wood and how the different parts of the system fit together than for probably any other site in Britain," he stated.

"It's helped us understand the relationship between the time that leaves emerge, how the caterpillars then emerge to feed on them, the Blue Tits then nest such so that they will be able to feed their young, just at the time the caterpillars are at their biggest and juiciest."

Gathering this kind of information over a long time period is essential in plotting the effects of global warming.

As Dr Kirby pointed out: "It's the work at Wytham which underpins the importance of knowing that these systems are all linked together."

The work on this front has intensified in recent years. Wytham Woods was one of the eight founding sites in the Environmental Change Network (ECN).

Established in 1993 by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology the ECN now comprises 12 terrestrial and 45 freshwater sites regularly monitored to detect the impact of environmental change.

This change could be one of the biggest challenges that woodlands of the future will face. Dr Kirby thinks this is why the research at Wytham is so important.

Fox cubs by
Wytham provides an invaluable insight into environmental issues

"There does seem to be some differences in how Oak versus Ash versus Sycamore respond, and we're just starting to get some hints about that and how it will affect how they regenerate and grow in the future."

However it responds, there can't be many places in the world that have the archive of information that will enable scientists to demonstrate how important this change is.

In Pictures: Wytham Woods album
20 Jan 10 |  Arts & Culture
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06 Jul 09 |  Nature & Outdoors


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