Forestry Journal:

This piece is an extract from our latest Forestry Latest News newsletter, which is emailed out at 4PM every Friday with a round-up of the week's top stories. 

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WOODLAND management is firmly on the agenda for the UK's foresters. Recent months alone have seen the fifth edition of the UK Forestry Standard (UKFS) published and the Institute of Chartered Foresters (ICF) call on the nation's governments to ensure forests are actively cared for. 

But just how are we doing in the here and now?  

Earlier this week, the latest UK Biodiversity Indicators were published. Among the fresh data, compiled both by professionals and by expert volunteers, new information on the country's sustainably managed forests was included. And it comes at a crucial time. 


According to the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), which advises both the UK and devolved governments, there were 1.4 million hectares of certified woodland across the country, representing 44 per cent of the total woodland area (as of March 2023). The proportion of woodland certified as sustainably managed has remained stable at either 43 per cent or 44 per cent since 2007. This represents a fairly significant increase on 2001, when the figure stood at around 36 per cent. 

Forestry Journal:

However, we appear to have stagnated. While the JNCC remarked that long term progress is "improving", there has been little or no change in both the short term and year-on-year. It may be a little simplistic (and adding two and two and getting five), but the stasis comes at the time when woodland creation has been prioritised by the government over anything else; something the ICF is desperate to change. 

Breaking the figures down by nation, and the JNCC found that every country bar Northern Ireland has increased how many of its forests are sustainably managed in the last two decades. Some by a lot - Scotland has risen from 44 per cent to 61 per cent - others by a little. The Northern Irish rate has fallen by around 20 per cent in the time period, down to 56 per cent as of March. The reason for this drastic fall is not immediately clear (FJ has asked DAERA for comment)*. 

Forestry Journal:

But at a time when sustainable woodland management is very much in vogue, it's so important to keep the progress going in the right direction. 

*Update (22/11/23): A DAERA spokesperson said: "The report indicated that the area certified in Northern Ireland has remained reasonably stable, rising slightly from 62 thousand hectares to 66 thousand hectares over the period. 

"The reason for the reported percentage drop in certified woodland in Northern Ireland from 75 per cent in 2001 to 56 per cent in 2023 is due to a change between 2011 and 2012 of the data source used for estimating the total woodland area in Northern Ireland. 

"This resulted in the estimate of total woodland area in Northern Ireland being reassessed in 2012 as 0.11 million hectares from the previous assessment of 0.08 million hectares in 2001.  

"The report recognised that: 'The percentage fall observed for Northern Ireland should be treated with caution as the data source for estimating the total woodland area in Northern Ireland changed between 2011 and 2012'.”