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Scotland’s Native Woodlands Put on the Map

Today Scotland’s first complete map and dataset of native woodlands has been unveiled. The map is the result of the Native Woodland Survey of Scotland (NWSS), a project carried out by Forestry Commission Scotland, which has taken 8 years to complete.

Thought to be the most comprehensive habitat survey project ever carried out in the UK and possibly the first example of its kind in Europe, the survey results include details on the location, type, extent, composition and condition of all native woodlands, and plantations on ancient woodland sites, over 0.5ha in size.

46% of Woodland in Condition for Biodiversity

Paul Wheelhouse, Minister for the Environment and Climate Change, who launched the new dataset, said;

“This survey – unique in terms of its depth, scope and focus – has for the first time given us a detailed, authoritative picture of a vitally important element of Scotland’s ‘Natural Capital’.

“For example, the survey found that over 22.5 per cent (311,153ha) of Scotland’s forests are native woodland – with 42 per cent of these being in the Highlands – and that 46% of native woodland is in satisfactory condition for biodiversity. While we have no comparable historic data to compare with the survey, the survey findings suggest that over the past 40 years we have lost a significant amount of ancient woodland in the uplands, and the survey has shown that the most widespread threat to native woodland health and regeneration is excessive browsing and grazing, mainly by deer.

“Much has been done over the past 30 years to reverse centuries’ worth of damage but – clearly – there is still much to do. With the NWSS, we now have an invaluable tool to assist local authorities, NGOs, land owners and managers to work independently – and together – to more effectively focus resources on managing, maintaining, enhancing and expanding native woodlands across Scotland and we know that already, since the data were collected, a further 7,800 ha of native trees have been planted.

“Eight years in the making, this dataset is a remarkable achievement. I would encourage anyone involved in land and woodland management to make use of the NWSS data and consider ways of working with the Commission to develop further applications of it.”

Wide-ranging Use

This dataset is open for viewing and can be used for a wide range of purposes – from informing national policy to more local, strategic uses, including:

  • strategic planning for areas such as national parks, local authorities, river catchments or habitat networks;
  • development planning and control;
  • environmental assessments;
  • targeting incentives for management;
  • management planning for individual woodlands;
  • assessing potential exposure to tree pests and disease threats

For more information about the NWSS – and to find out about training and access – visit the Forestry Commission NWSS web page.


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