Woodland colonization on wetlands is considered to have a detrimental effect on their ecological value, even though detailed analysis of this process is lacking. This paper provides an evaluation of the ecological changes resulting from succession of poor fen (base-poor mire) to willow wet woodland on Goss Moor NNR in Cornwall, UK. Different ages of willow carr were associated with eight understorey communities. During willow colonization, in the ground flora, there was a progressive decrease in poor fen species and an associated increase in woodland species, which appeared to be related to an increase in canopy cover and therefore shade. The most diverse community was found to be the most recent willow and was dominated by poor fen species. The oldest willow was the second most diverse and was associated with a reduction in poor fen species and an increase in woodland species. Architectural features were used successfully to assess the general condition and structure of willow. Tree height and DBH were identified as useful parameters to accurately assess willow age in the field. The implications of active intervention to remove willow in order to conserve the full range of communities within the hydrosere are discussed.
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