Healthy: achieving good environmental and silvicultural condition in a changing climate

Key commitments:

  • We are committed to high quality silviculture and increasingly using alternatives to clear-felling.

  • We are exploring how to best steward the carbon resources locked up in both the trees and soils on the National Forest Estate.

  • We will help the estate to adapt to climate change and become more resilient to pressure.

Key priorities:

  • Tree diseases are currently a major threat. For the last five years we have been working to mitigate the impacts of Dothistroma on pine: harvesting badly infected crops, instigating early thinning to reduce the disease, and taking action to protect Caledonian pine woods. This disease is now fully factored into our management, although early thinning and the extensive restocking required after clearance comes with affordability challenges.

  • Phytophthora ramorum is currently having a major impact, especially in Dumfries and Galloway, where larch clearance is dominating our harvesting programme. This clearance is increasing harvesting costs and reducing timber income. We are working to minimise impacts on our regionally important recreation offering in Galloway Forest Park. Elsewhere, we are accelerating road planning and building to improve access to larch – we estimate that an additional civil engineering investment of £10M is needed over the next three years.

  • Along with the forestry sector, we have robust processes in place for managing the impact of storm damage to forests. However, we are increasing our focus on pre-emptive management of steep ground to mitigate risks to society of land-slips and wind blow. This 15 year, £15M programme is centred on the Great Glen, where steep rocky forested slopes rise above key transport routes. We are working in partnership with the transport authorities to manage impacts on road traffic.

  • We are committed to managing the impacts of invasive exotic species on the estate. We are four years into a massive rhododendron eradication programme, requiring detailed planning and follow-up and costing some £16 million over 12 years. We are encouraging our neighbours to follow suit in order to achieve landscape-scale removal of seed sources.

  • To increase the resilience of our forests, we are increasingly using alternatives to clearfelling and diversifying tree species where conditions allow. This can be complex and costly, particularly at the early stages, and requires intensive management of deer and other browsing animals. We have an active training programme to increase our silvicultural expertise.