The overall woodland creation target, part of Scotland’s climate change plans, was increased to 13,500 ha for 2021/22.
Scottish Forestry had approved enough woodland creation schemes to hit the new target, however parts of the forestry sector had to divert resources from planting to recovering the millions of trees brought down in the storms.
Commenting on the new figures, Environment Minister Mairi McAllan said:
“Over the last four years Scotland has consistently created over 10,000 ha of new woodland each year. This has been achieved during the challenges caused by Brexit, the global Covid pandemic, and the worst winter storms for over 10 years.
“Whilst it is disappointing that we have not met this year’s target, mother nature dealt us a salutary lesson of the power of the weather and reminded us of the challenges of climate change. Even now, clear up operations from the storms are continuing so it is no surprise that they had an effect on tree planting operations.
“It is good news that we have comfortably met our native woodland target and Scotland is punching above its weight in creating over three quarters of all the UK’s new woodlands.
“The future is also looking very encouraging as there is a very healthy demand for woodland creation projects in the pipeline. Scottish Forestry is accelerating applications for woodland creation schemes and is already working on around 13,000 ha worth of new projects.”
Storm Arwen damaged 8,000 ha of woodland this winter, the equivalent of around 16 million trees, requiring millions of tonnes of timber to be recovered.
Scottish Forestry supported the forestry sector throughout the winter storms by reallocating staff resources and fast tracking the paperwork needed to manage the aftermath of the storms.
Their data shows that the majority of the shortfall from the yearly target was located in the Grampian, South Scotland and Perthshire areas, which were most badly affected by the storms.
Across other parts of the UK, England created 2,260 ha of new woodland, Wales 580 ha and Northern Ireland 540 ha.
David Edwards, Tilhill’s Forestry Director said:
“Scotland is indeed punching above its weight and is to be congratulated on what has been achieved in a planting season impacted by severe winter storms. Hopefully it will all get back on track next year and continue plans for further expansion of new woodlands, including more productive schemes which are so important to our rural economies, sequestering carbon as they grow and keeping it locked away whilst converting in to home-grown future timber products.
However the figures highlight how far behind the rest of the UK is in creating new woodlands to achieve UK Government targets of 30,000ha per year. Even with Scotland’s contribution, less than a half of the annual UK target was achieved. England, Wales and NI need to do much, much more and do it quickly as time to make a difference is running out.”
The latest woodland planting figures are available via the Forest Research website here.