The Atlantic hazelwoods are one of Scotland's most ancient woodlands. They are older by far than the Atlantic oakwoods of Scotland, and older than some of the Caledonian pinewoods. Together with birch, hazel was one of the earliest woody species to establish along the western edge of Scotland, as far back as 10,000 years Before Present. Pollen evidence points to vast areas of western Scotland being dominated by hazel for hundreds of years. In that time, other plants and animals established amongst the hazel, forming what is today a unique habitat of great antiquity. Hazel can occur as wind-clipped coastal woodland, as small to large stands amongst (or adjacent to) other woodland, or as an 'understorey' with emergent trees such as ash and oak.
This book aims to change the way people think about hazel and in particular the hazel woods along the Atlantic seaboard. Until recently, most ecologists perceived hazel as just a coppiced shrub, the commonest component of the underwood in our widespread and enduring coppice-with-standards silvicultural system, and dismissed the hazel-dominated woods of the north and west as scrub – if they recognised them at all. Here, however, we are presented in a lavishly illustrated form with a more discriminating view, which sees the Atlantic hazel woods as a distinctive and highly signiﬁcant type of woodland, the rain forest – no less – of the British Isles.
"As George Peterken says in his foreword, thia this book aims to change the way you think about Hazel woods. It is the product of many years of exploration of Scotland's Atlantic hazelwoods by the authors, both leading lights of British lichenology for many years, and, of course, Sandy is also a regular contributor to British Wildlife. The key message of this copiously illustrated book is that the Atlantic woods of Scotland, parts of western Ireland and possibly a few isolated valleys in Wales, are some of our most ancient woodlands. They have a unique epiphytic assemblage of lichens, fungi and bryophytes of international importance. Indeed, some of the lichens appear to be endemic to these woodlands. Despite all these riches, many people consider Hazel to be an understorey shrub that needs to be coppiced to survive. Applying this type of thinkin to these woods could be disastrous, and the book clearly sets ou out the most appropriate management techniques that will preserve and enhance these habitats. Required reading for anyone interested in our woodlands"
- Andrew Branson, British Wildlife Volume 23(6), August 2012