A new study has provided quantitative evidence of the natural capital benefits of planting new woodlands.

Commissioned by Scottish Forestry, Tilhill and SEPA, the study – the first of its kind in the UK – assessed a newly planted mixed woodland site at Larriston near Newcastleton, which is managed by Tilhill. The woodland was then valued to measure its natural capital potential over the next 50 years.

In addition to future revenues from selling harvested timber, the analysis revealed substantial benefits for society through CO2 removals, flood alleviation and biodiversity from modern-day forestry.

The key future benefits were valued at around £20 million in today’s prices, which included almost 200,000 tonnes of timber, just under 150,000 tonnes of CO2 removals, and almost 3 million m³ of water stored in the forest.

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The analysis showed timber to provide the largest source of financial revenue for the project at £2.5 million over the next 50 years. The value of net carbon sequestration to society was estimated at around £9 million over the same period.

Dr. Pat Snowdon of Scottish Forestry, who led the study, said: “This is a fresh approach to working with businesses in the forestry sector by putting a value on a range of natural capital benefits from planting new woodlands.

“The survey provides important evidence about how woodland creation and nature supports a green recovery and will contribute towards our challenging climate change targets.

“The study will also be of interest to those in the forest products chain who will be able to see how well-designed woodland planting is a win-win for the economy, local communities and nature.”

AECOM consultants, who carried out the study in association with RDI Associates and Cumulus Consultants, worked closely with Scottish Forestry and Tilhill to apply the Forest Products Sector Guide of the Natural Capital Protocol for the first time in the UK. The Protocol aims to show the reliance between business and nature, including in this case, benefits that forestry can generate for the economy and local communities.

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