The government have issued their 25 year Environment Plan which includes increasing woodland in England in line with our aspiration of 12% cover by 2060: this would involve planting 180,000 hectares by end of 2042.
The first case of the tree disease ash die back has been confirmed in The National Forest. The disease was found at three sites between Albert Village and Moira, in Leicestershire, near to the Derbyshire town of Swadlincote. Ash dieback was first identified in the UK last year and is now established in 14 counties around the country. Millions of trees have been planted at the forest in the last 20 years with ash accounting for about a fifth.
The results of the 2013 National Forest Inventory are expected at end-March/early April. Further information will be included in April’s Forestry and Timber News. At this time there is still some work to do to validate and verify the data before publication.
The area of forest/woodland is greater than previously thought, though much of the increase is in the form of very small woods which were previously not detectable on small scale aerial photography. Early indications are that the average measured yield classes are higher than previous estimates and extrapolations. Also average stocking appears to be higher than previous estimates.
The Forestry Commission are careful not to describe the output of the NFI as a private sector production forecast but as a projection of biological availability. The volume produced during any given period will be determined by a wide range of factors (mostly economic or financially related) and there are constraints on the production of timber from specific woodlands. The actual volumes produced in any given period will also be influenced by the assumptions made and the FC will, in collaboration with industry, run scenarios to test the impacts of a range of assumptions.
The Sir David Read report ‘Combating Climate Change – a role for UK forests’ can be read here. It states: “Woodlands planted since 1990, coupled to an enhanced woodland creations programme of 23 200ha per year (14,840ha additional to the 8360ha per year assume in business as usual projections) over the next 40 years, could, by 2050, be delivering, on an annual basis, emissions abatement equivalent to 10% of GHG emissions at that time. Such a programme would represent a 4% change in land cover and would bring UK forest area to 16% which would still be well below the European average.”
The key findings are:
- A clear need for more woodlands
- An asset to be managed wisely
- The status quo is not an option
- Harvesting and use of wood increases forestry’s mitigation potential
- Trees help people adapt
The report stresses, that while gaps for further research have been identified, of equal importance is communicating the findings to decision-makers, to enable trees, woodlands and forestry to be placed at the heart of climate change policy.
The revised UK Forestry Standard and associated Forestry Guidelines have just been released after years of consultation and development. Confor has been involved in the process from the outset and generally welcomes the revisions. The documents set out the statutory framework for forestry, along with best practice guidance.
The UKFS, sometimes dubbed the forester’s bible, is a necessary element of sustainable forest management in the UK. Legal obligations are clearly defined and differentiated from best practice – the latter is generally a condition of receiving grants.
The UKFS had to be revised for a number of reasons, including to strengthen the connections with the Guidelines and to clarify the status of all the documents. In addition, some guidance and interpretation has been “ramped up” for various reasons, including the need to ensure that all wood produced in the UK is deemed “sustainable”, especially for woodfuel to qualify as a sustainable source of renewable energy. There are also two new Guidelines: Forestry and climate change, and Forestry and soils. Other substantive changes and additions are clearly marked – they are not many, but some may find them irksome.
Richard Howe, FC’s standards and certification analyst, said: “The new UKFS and Guidelines give us a robust, succinct and clear set of credentials for the sustainability of forestry practice in the UK. Writing the Standard has been a major project for FC and NI Forest Service, and we are grateful for a great deal of help and advice from a range of organisations.
“The Standard provides a well articulated approach to forest management and helps ensure the forestry sector remains in the lead in terms of its commitment to sustainability. Inevitably, writing the Standard means finding a balance between commercial, environmental and social objectives, but it puts us in a very good position for meeting new challenges, in particular climate change, woodland expansion, woodfuel, and ensuring that UK forests produce sustainable produce.
“We should all be proud of this achievement, and we now need to ensure the UKFS is used to our best advantage.”