Brownsea boasts a mosaic of wildlife habitats; from woodland to open heath and seashore to lagoon. The Brownsea Island countryside rangers and volunteers work year round to keep this unique variety of habitats thriving and accessible for our visitors.
The National Trust team of staff and volunteers have worked hard to establish a healthy woodland habitat that covers around half of the island’s 500 acres. From oak to pine, evergreen to deciduous and young to old, all the varying tree types in Brownsea’s woodland provide food, shelter and nesting sites for birds and animals such as the rare red squirrel.
Our particular focus on Brownsea is on restoring a healthier wooded heath habitat, a unique ecosystem that can support the lives of thousands of species. Thinning out the trees allows more light through the canopy and encourages new growth of heather. With more space the Scots pine trees will produce more cones and therefore more seeds for the island’s red squirrels.
" We're aiming to create a woodland with a varying age structure to future proof this habitat for all the various wildlife that depends on it."
Since the National Trust took over the island in 1962, the island partners, rangers and volunteers have been gradually tackling and removing an invasive species of rhododendron. Fifty years ago Brownsea Island was swathed in rhododendron, after the island was left unmanaged by a previous owner. The alien plant species originated in the Himalayas and thrives to the exclusion of nearly all other plant life around it on the acidic soils of Brownsea. Woodland habitats have suffered from a lack of light which has prevented natural regeneration of shrubs, trees and flowers. The aim is to create a habitat similar to the woodland glades in the New Forset which has a fragmented woodland canopy creating dappled light, promoting healthier understory growth.
Some of the island’s volunteers remember what it was like when the rhododendron grew so tall, there were tunnels created through it. Now the rhody tunnels are no longer, but the legacy is something we still battle against today.