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Large areas of the UK are covered by more recent plantations. These include commercial timber-producing plantations, as well as new native woodlands.

During the last century, ancient woods were felled and replanted, sometimes with non-native conifers. This has had negative impacts on the special ecology of the ancient woodland. Restoration of these plantations on ancient woodland sites is a key conservation priority.

Some new forests are planted on other semi-natural habitats such as heathland. Many of these are also now being restored.

Value to wildlife

Plantations can have a positive effect on wildlife. Especially if they do not replace or damage other important habitats and are thoughtfully managed. They may not have accumulated the ecological value of ancient woods, but they still provide homes for a range of species.

Young plantations can support breeding birds, including hen harrier and short-eared owl. Conifer plantations host a surprisingly high number of invertebrates. These include hoverflies and beetles, and can be valuable for rare fungi. Conifer forests also provide habitat for pine marten and red squirrel.

Good management of new woodland can ensure a mosaic of different habitats for wildlife. This includes mixed species of different ages, open spaces, and standing and fallen deadwood.