The Native Woodland Survey of Scotland (NWSS) is now two thirds complete – and the three most recent reports (Argyll & Bute, South Lanarkshire and Stirling) show that the area of native woodland in Argyll & Bute is considerably higher than in any other local authority area – so far.
The summary reports for 22 of the 32 Scottish local authority areas are now available, with Argyll and Bute having 33,058ha of native woodland – almost 5% of the total land area.
Managed by Forestry Commission Scotland, the NWSS aims to improve understanding of our valuable and important native woodlands in order to better inform efforts to protect and expand them for the benefit of nature conservation, heritage and the rural economy.
Environment Minister Stewart Stevenson says: ‘This survey of native woodland is the most comprehensive forest survey to have taken place in Scotland since the Forestry Commission was established in 1919.
‘It is clearly building up a fantastically detailed picture of the quantity, composition, condition and location of our native woodlands, the like of which we’ve never had before. It is also detailing the make-up of remnants of ancient woodlands, and woodlands comprising native species that have been planted more recently or regenerated naturally.
‘These are all important habitat areas – as well as resources for recreation and potentially for the production of quality hardwood timber and it is vital that we do all we can to ensure that these woodlands are nurtured and cared for so that they can be brought into the best possible condition.
‘The NWSS is fundamental to that ambition and its findings will steer woodland management of these resources for many years to come.’
The survey data is already being put to good use in contributing to the planning of future management of existing woodlands as well as planning for the creation of new native woodlands on adjacent sites. It can also aid overall habitat management and identify woodlands containing invasive species and thereby to target these for control.
In future the results of the survey will also inform forest design plans, decisions about restructuring and thinning on ancient woodland (PAWS) sites and in helping to identify possible bat habitat & roosts.
Efforts to improve the overall health of native woodlands for biodiversity should focus on encouraging greater regeneration of native tree and shrub species, reducing the extent of invasive non native shrubs such as Rhododendron ponticum and managing the impact of browsing by herbivores such as deer and livestock.
Areas still to be reported on include Dumfries and Galloway, Scottish Borders, Highland and Aberdeenshire – all known to have large areas of woodland, so Argyll and Bute’s apparent current predominance may not last.
Results for these areas should be published over the next 6-12 months followed by a national summary report.
For more information on the NWSS, to see the published summary reports and to access the data from which these have been produced visit this page of the Forestry Commission website.