Commission couldn’t see the woods for the trees
The South West has nearly a quarter more woodland and forest than previously thought, it can be revealed as a report sheds new light on our countryside.
The Forestry Commission report reveals that the region has 22 per cent more forest than previously known, increasing the total area by 45,030 hectares to 251,638 hectares.
It means that more than 11 per cent of our landscapes are covered in woodlands – the figure previously stood at just under nine per cent tree-cover.
The increase has come to light thanks to a greater accuracy in research techniques – modern aerial camera and mapping equipment is able to detect many more smaller broadleaf forests than was the case when the last census report was published in 1998.
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The latest figures are all part of an ongoing country-wide survey being carried out by the National Forest Inventory which was set up in 2009 and employs the use of high resolution aerial photography and cutting edge satellite technology.
The Forestry Commission team also relies on ground-based research and its work is now described as the most robust scientific evidence on forests in British history.
It’s all part of an initiative to place the forestry industry higher on the national agenda – the West might have more woodlands than previously thought but the UK remains far behind most other northern European countries when it comes to the number of trees we grow.
“Up until now we haven’t had facts and figures to put our case as an industry in front of the decision makers or the public in general,” says Ben Ditchburn, head of the National Forest Inventory. “We aim to re-profile forestry so people can understand the value of our woodlands and see what they can do for the country.”
Mr Ditchburn said: “The results for the South West show that the area has a unique rural heritage, with many smaller broadleaved woods evenly distributed across the landscape, reflecting many centuries of Celtic land management principles. There is also a definite trend of trees being older in the region than compared to the national average, indicating different approaches to woodland management.
“What this report shows is that the people of the South West are still in touch with nature and many know how to look after their forests from small local woodlands to large forest landscapes.”
Analysis of aerial photographs shows that 66 per cent of our woodland is predominantly broadleaf, while 24 per cent is conifer and 8 per cent is in transition (the last two per cent are uncertain).