Scotland’s woodlands and forests support a wide range of important plants and animals. Rare and threatened species are more often found in and around semi-natural woodlands, but many have also colonised planted forests.
View forest and woodland data on Scotland’s environment web:
Good-practice standards for managing woodlands and guidance for biodiversity are available in the UK Forestry Standard (UKFS) and associated guidelines.
The Scottish Forestry Strategy (2006) sets out the Scottish Government’s ambitions for the condition of woodlands and the services that those woodland will provide for society.
The 2020 Challenge for Scotland’s Biodiversity, sets out ambitious policy proposals for restoring nature and getting more benefits from it, including improving the condition of native woodlands identified in the Native Woodland Survey of Scotland.
Under the Scottish Government's Control of Woodland Removal Policy, loss of woodland should only be permitted if it results in significant public benefits. Planting in other areas to make up for any loss of woodland is often expected.
Development-planning policies also influence the location and character of woodland expansion through Forest and Woodland Strategies and encourage the development of green networks, notably the Central Scotland Green Network.
Guidance is available for
Collaboration between neighbours in the management of deer, which integrates the management of woodlands as well as the deer that live there, is encouraged. A Scottish code of practice for sustainable deer management gives advice on this. Regional deer management groups in the uplands and a new Lowland Deer Network Scotland are developing a more co-ordinated approach to deer management.
The Forestry Grant Scheme supports new woodland creation and sustainable management of existing woodlands.
The Land Information Search (LIS) for Agri-Environment & Forestry should be used by applicants for Scotland Rural Development Programme (SRDP) Forestry Grant Scheme Contracts or forest felling licences, taking the information into account when applying for grants or licences. The tool allows you to run a map based search to highlight the presence of a range of environmental features and designations such as Scheduled Monuments, Sites of Special Scientific Interest and Native Woodlands that may fall within an area of interest and within a 500m buffer.
Planning and managing woodlands is generally best considered over the long term and on a landscape or whole forest scale, within a regional context. Long-term forest plans are in place for all of the national forest estate, and are now required as a condition of grant aid for most management in private woodlands. These plans set out, for a period of at least 20 years, how the diversity of conifer forests will be increased as they mature. At the end of 2013 there were 215,426 ha of privately owned woodland with a long-term forest plan.
Increasing demand for public use of woodlands is being met by encouraging more planting and management of woods in and around towns.
As well as removing emissions at source, good river-basin planning and site management can reduce the effects of nitrogen enrichment on woodland biodiversity. Careful management of livestock grazing may also help. The UKFS guidelines on forests and water include measures to minimise the effects of acid rain.
Scotland’s forests are at risk from tree pests and diseases. Climate change, global travel and imported plants and wood can increase pests and diseases and their impacts. These can dramatically affect the health of our trees and timber quality, upsetting the delicate ecosystem balance and devastating large areas of woodland.
Scotland has one of the greatest health challenges of Europe's developed nations. Forestry Commission Scotland and the whole forest sector can contribute positively to the health agenda. The Woods to Health Strategy and Woods for Health action plan focuses on making local woodland accessible and welcoming – helping people build healthy activity into their daily lives. A number of case studies and further information on the role Scotland’s forests can plan in improving health and wellbeing have been published by Forestry Commission Scotland.
Woodland creation and forest management is regulated by Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS), mainly under the Forestry Act 1967 (revised) and The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) (Forestry) (Scotland) Regulations (1999).
Other environmental protection legislation that applies to woodlands includes:
Under the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011, Scottish Natural Heritage, Forestry Commission Scotland, and SEPA have powers and responsibilities to tackle problems caused by Invasive Non Native Species (INNS).
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Forestry Commission Scotland - supports Scotland’s forests through guidance, grants and regulations, and by shaping forestry policy.
Forest Districts - responsible for harvesting trees and planting new ones; wildlife, environment and heritage conservation; provision of paths and facilities.
Forest Enterprise Scotland - the government agency that’s responsible for managing Scotland’s National Forest Estate.
Forest Research - the research agency of the Forestry Commission.
Outdoor & Woodland Learning Scotland - dedicated to increasing the use of Scotland’s outdoor environments for learning.
Scotland – Woodland Trust - protects and campaign on behalf of the UK’s woods, plant more trees, and restore ancient woodland, for the benefit of wildlife and people.
Trees for Life - works with volunteers to restore the Caledonian Forest and all its constituent species of flora and fauna to the Scottish Highlands.