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Woodland Creation for Biodiversity – What to consider?

Discussing on the ground examples (24 February 2022)

Colin Edwards, Environment Policy Advisor, Scottish Forestry discussed how to create woodland to meet your biodiversity objectives. Looked at basic principles of site selection, key species to plant, integration of open habitat and creation of future habitat to maximise your biodiversity benefits. Our hosts for the night Andrew Barbour, Mains of Fincastle, Pitlochry and Richard Lockett, Knockbain, Dingwall. Discussed their practical experiences of creating, woodland for biodiversity. Iona Hyde, Croft Woodlands also attended and answered questions alongside our speakers.

Find out about the Network, its hosts and useful info here.

Colin Edwards, Environment Policy Advisor, Scottish Forestry

Colin highlighted and discussed the following points. Colin’s presentation is available here.

  • There is a focus on new woodland, but biodiversity can cross over to other existing sites.
  • What is biodiversity? – It’s the variety of plant and animal life, including genetic variation within species.
  • There is a balance between addressing Climate Change and biodiversity.
  • There are arguments on whether you go native or non-native.
  • Adding trees can increase the range of biodiversity on the sites, but you need to consider where to locate trees and impact on existing habitat.An aerial photo showing a patchwork landscape of green fields and woodland plantations and corridors.
  • The edges of woodland are normally where a range of biodiversity can be found. Some species prefer the core of woodland so larger areas of core woodland can better support a variety of species.
  • Native species can result in faster colonisation, but even some native species can survive in non-native areas.
  • Consider developing woodland ‘networks corridors’. This allows integration and helps with movement of species.
  • When considering woodland, have a look around your area to see what species are already around.
  • The Ecological Site Classification web-system provides further information on what are the best species and the Forest Research publications also provide additional guidance and support. (Links at end of document).
  • Biodiversity is not just about species, it also covers the genetic stability of species.
  • Natural woodland regeneration would be encouraged as the best way to enhance woodland.
  • There are 10 main micro habitat types. You should try to incorporate these into any woodland plans. You need to remember biodiversity and species “isn’t just about the ‘fluffy bunny rabbits’ but also the non-attractive species ‘bugs’, which are also important.”
  • Re-population and improving biodiversity can take years to achieve.
  • One key challenge to improving biodiversity is with browsing species (such as deer) which can cause negative impacts.

Richard Lockett, Knockbain, Dingwall

The Lockett family from Knockbain Farm. The family are standing in front of a stack of round straw bales inside a shed.Richard discussed his on practical experiences and highlighted key points.

  • Not everywhere is suitable for planting trees. You could have a negative impact on biodiversity if you plant on species rich grasslands, or These can be more important than woodlands for biodiversity.
  • Planting trees close to wetlands that are important for wading birds (eg lapwing) can also be highly damaging.
  • It was mentioned how important it is to understand your site (soil types, surrounding trees/wildlife etc).
  • Don’t forget that natural regeneration plays a vital role as well.
  • The best areas in a woodland for biodiversity is not the actual trees but the open ground and scrub in-between the trees.
  • Woodlands next to burns and watercourse can be particularly valuable, protecting watercourses from agricultural inputs and providing good bankside habitat.
  • Attendees were also shown a series of pictures of the work being undertaken on the farm in relation to its woodland, particularly improving habitat connectivity

Andrew Barbour, Mains of Fincastle, Pitlochry

Andrew discussed future plans for woodland creation

  • Have recently taken over neighbouring land. Which has not been heavily grazed and the bracken is dominant. It is in a national scenic area.
  • They have plans to plant trees on parts of this new farm, but not all the current land is suitable.A view from the top of a Scottish hill overlooking a loch with more mountains in the background.
  • They are looking at improving the biodiversity on the land and to use the woodland for carbon sequestration and as a future timber resource.
  • They are planning on planting different types of trees (to ensure a selective canopy range). Possibly native pine option.
  • Attendees were told to always consider the impact woodland would have on your farm plans and to consider and take account of the biodiversity impact trees will have.
  • They hope that by controlling the bracken with the trees, it will improve the biodiversity landscape.
  • They see the woodland forming part of any livestock rotational grazing.
  • You need to be aware of the neighbouring landscape when planting trees.

Question & answer session

The event was opened up for questions which had been posted throughout the event.

Q - How does Scottish Forestry account for natural regeneration of tree seedlings after main tree crop has been felled? Does Scottish Forestry include this as new crop and more/ new acres/ hectares? I.e. Does this count towards SG ambitious annual target?

A – The natural regeneration would only count if it went beyond the footprint of the felled woodland.  If its regen in the felled areas then it’s considered restocking.

Q - Drains run parallel to the water course bang where I live. I would ideally place a riparian woodland, it would be costly changing the drains.

A – There is no obvious answer, other than seeing if you can move them.

Q - Idea of woodland creation can provide true solution for integration between biodiversity and protection original ecosystems, and needs of modern development and agriculture.

A – If in right place for right reason. It shouldn’t have negative impact on biodiversity.

Q - Deer fencing is increasingly expensive, high maintenance, restricts access and quite frankly its ugly. Are there viable alternatives?

A – Andrew Barbour commented, yes there are alternatives such as shooting  but you need cooperation of neighbours. You could use high voltage fencing. It was highlighted that deer is a big problem for new trees and new trees need physical protection.

Q - When considering areas being 'too small' to get into the grant scheme, can different areas become aggregated to a larger whole?

A – No you can’t aggregate small areas. The Woodland Trust does support small woodland down to 0.1 hectares in the crofting areas.

Q – Andrew Barbour was asked, what will the future flora be in your new woodland?

A – As the canopy develops, change will happen. It’s hoped this will reduce the spread of the bracken. It is hoped for more grass and heath species will take root.

Q – What do the presenters think about wild boar and woodland?

A –Boar can be destructive for agriculture but beneficial for woodland.

Q – Is there support for bracken control?

A – Capital Grant Scheme can provide help. Speak to your local conservancy

Q - There’s a strong driver for woodland creation due to the established Woodland Carbon Code. Does the focus on carbon mean less action on biodiversity?

A -Where carbon credits are being sold, there is also an interest from buyers in those credits having wider benefits ‘attached.’ This ‘charismatic carbon can support woodlands which support biodiversity.

Q - The desirability of introducing/establishing woodland plants (and not just trees) was mentioned in the presentations. How does a landowner/manager get financial help to do something as involved and technical as that?

A – There is currently no financial support in Scotland. We are aware that England is considering this though it is at an early stage.


Attendees were reminded that if they are interested in the Woodland Carbon Code, they must register their project with the WCC before starting any planting.

Useful links