D: Management planning using data from the Native Woodland Survey of Scotland

You can use the survey data in many ways to help develop management plans for native and ancient woods.

The FC internal browser (and in future the planned external browser) can be used for limited areas to provide information and maps for:

  • location of native woodland (and nearly–native) polygons and also areas of PAWS that are not native. This could be used to prepare grant application maps with ground truthing to update or verify that Native Woodland Surevy of Scotland information is accurate.
  • selected polygon(s) within a locality, summary information on structure and species composition etc.

The browser can be used to provide simple maps and summary data for whole woodlands and for most forest design plan or Forest Plan areas. 

For plans over larger areas, or several spatially dispersed locations, users with GIS skills can access NWSS data from the NWSS team and analyse it to provide relevant information.

Key elements of any type of native woodland management plan are suggested in the Forestry Commission Guides to the management of semi-natural woodlands.  Links to these documents are on the right hand side of this page. 

  • Description
  • Evaluation
  • Objects of management
  • Management proposals:
    • long term strategy
    • 5 year work plan
  • Monitoring

Sections E (Native woodlands and grant support) and F (Native woodland plans on the National Forest Estate) give more specific guidance on management planning in relation to applications for grant support under the SRDP and for native woods on the national forest estate.

Issues to consider in using NWSS data for planning

Description and evaluation

NWSS gives information on trees and shrubs, threats and damages and ecological type (NVC: National Vegetation Community), which woodland managers should update or verify and combine with other information such as wildlife species and cultural and landscape values. More information on wood production potential and quality may be needed in some sites.

Setting management objectives

  • Every wood is different and management objectives should relate to the character and values of the wood and the owner’s aims. Objectives should also be consistent with national and local policies.
  • Native woods generally have a high current or potential value for biodiversity as well as other public benefits, but they also vary considerably. In addition planted native woods may originally have been established for other purposes such as timber production or as shelter belts. So each case should considered on it merits, and not all areas of native woodland identified in NWSS should necessarily be managed to be more semi-natural and/or improve their condition in biodiversity terms.
  • For example a native plantation of Scots pine might be managed mainly for timber production with moderate diversification of structure and composition. Or a mainly native semi-natural broadleaved wood with a significant component of sycamore, beech or other non-native trees which are mature but not invasive may be managed as a mixed broadleaved wood with multiple objectives, rather than trying to eliminate all non-natives in the wood.
  • A common issue in upland native woods with a fairly open canopy and a history of wood pasture management is whether to restore or maintain them as wood pasture or to manage them to become more complete native woodland priority habitats.  Guidance on this is found the FC guides to semi-natural woodland (above), Action for Scotland’s native woods (PDF 3.8Mb), and recent FCS guidance on ancient wood pastures (PDF 3.2Mb).

Management proposals

It is helpful to set out a long-term strategy by identifying the desired future condition in terms of structure and composition and the silvicultural systems to be used to get there.

The 5-year work plan is a step on the way to achieving the long-term goals.

Action should address threats identified to achieving desired future condition, such as:

  • imbalanced age structure/lack of regeneration
  • lack of old trees or deadwood
  • unsuitable canopy structure and open ground
  • presence of invasive non-native shrub/field layer species
  • excessive herbivore impact
  • non-native trees
  • soil damage, pests and diseases
  • dumping of litter etc.


You can use the NWSS data as a basis for assessing trends in area, structure and composition in relation to objectives. The NWSS data will have been collected some time between 2007 and 2013, and should be verified and updated if need be to act as a baseline description when a management plan starts.