To ensure suitable habitat for red squirrels in mid Wales, forest management in the Mid Wales Red Squirrel Focal Area must be addressed.
The Partnership works with forest managers to try to maintain and improve habitat which is suitable for red squirrels as well as maintaining connectivity between these forest areas.
In order to safeguard the red squirrel population in the Focal Site it is important that there is sufficient feeding habitat for red squirrels whilst not encouraging grey squirrels. It has been shown that even 1% of broadleaves in a conifer woodland is enough to maintain a population of greys. Large-seeded trees such as oak, beech and hazel must be kept to a minimum in these areas, preferred broadleaved species are birch, willow and alder.
In coniferous forests, red squirrels prefer to feed on large-seeded conifers, primarily lodgepole pine, Norway spruce and larch. Patches of good feeding habitat are needed within a wider matrix of lower quality habitat such as Sitka spruce.
Forest connectivity needs to be maintained between these Key Areas throughout the felling cycles to enable movement of red squirrels. In 2012 the Mid Wales Red Squirrel Partnership commissioned a habitat survey of the mid Wales red squirrel focal area – Developing an understanding of forest management requirements for red squirrels in Mid-Wales Focal Site. The survey assessed and mapped the location, extent and quality of habitat suitable for red squirrels and assessed arboreal connectivity between key areas. Essentially, the report provides recommendations for maintaining and enhancing key areas and arboreal connectivity.
In 2017 the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales coordinated the creation of a 5-year Management Plan for the Mid Wales Red Squirrel Focal Site on behalf of the Mid Wales Red Squirrel Partnership. The Plan, ‘Optimising Habitat Management for Red Squirrels‘ is a collaboration between the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales, private forestry companies and Natural Resources Wales.
Whilst acknowledging that forest managers have other, sometimes conflicting, management objectives, the Partnership works to ensure that recommendations are followed by as many forestry managers as possible and that the Tywi Forest has red squirrel conservation as one of its major objectives for future forest management.