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British Woodlands Survey 2017

British Woodlands Survey 2017

Across the UK, thousands of people work with woods, trees and forestry. To help capture the major concerns and trends in this sector, the Woodland Trust supported the British Woodlands Survey in 2017, led by Sylva Foundation. The survey has just been published, and you can now read about the findings.

This was the fourth survey since 2012, and last year a new approach was taken to identify the key themes of interest to those working with woodlands in the UK.

Throughout the first half of 2017 a series of workshops were held in England, Wales and Scotland to involve woodland owners and managers, businesses, NGOs and others in identifying the main themes for the survey. The top three themes identified in an initial survey and at these workshops were Societal attitudes, Climate change adaptation, and Pests and diseases.

These themes, along with a number of others, were used to develop the survey questions. Last summer 1,630 people completed the survey online, and this fantastic response rate represented owners and managers who look after one-fifth of the total UK woodland area. Some of the key results are summarised in the infographic below.

Key findings from the woodland survey (Image: Sylva Foundation)
Key findings from the woodland survey (Image: Sylva Foundation)

One interesting result relates to how respondents perceive society’s views on woodlands. The majority thought that society values woods most for their wildlife value. This is an important recognition among those who manage woods in the UK of the wider public’s interest in woodland habitats.

The survey responses also provide some interesting results around the concept of ‘ecosystem services’. This term is used to describe the variety of important roles that nature plays in maintaining an environment that supports human life, for example, by providing clean water.

Valuable ecosystem services

Among woodland owners, 87% thought that their land provided valuable ecosystem services, although a large majority did not know, or were uncertain of, the economic value of their land for providing services such as pollination and protection against soil erosion. This result flags up the need to help increase knowledge, and a sense of value, of ecosystem services among land and woodland managers. This may be especially important as debate continues about which ecosystem services are provided by different types of land use, especially in the face of changing policies after Brexit.

Respondents to the survey also answered questions about environmental changes they have observed in UK woodlands over the last five years. Notably, 76% reported observing changes in damage from pests and diseases, and 48% from vertebrates such as deer. Despite the high proportion of those aware of damage from pests and diseases, very low numbers provided cleaning and disinfecting facilities for visitors (6%) or woodland workers (13%). This difference suggests that there is an on-going need for guidance about biosecurity measures.

Appropriate incentives

Another major finding from the survey was that, if there were appropriate incentives for tree planting in place, woodland-owning respondents could offer 26,218 hectares for new planting. This would be equivalent to a 1% increase in the UK’s woodland area, even though the group of respondents to the question represented a relatively small number of woodland owners across the UK. This result demonstrates what a big impact the right incentives could have on future woodland cover.

Find out more results from the British Woodlands Survey 2017, including those focusing on England, Wales and Scotland by downloading the report now.

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