1: Area of native woodland

What information does the survey provide and why does it matter?

Native woodlands generally have a high value or potential for biodiversity (nature conservation) and can provide a range of other benefits to society such as attractive landscapes, cultural heritage value, shelter for livestock crops and gamebirds or deer, wood and non-timber products, and protecting soil and water quality.

Such values are sometimes referred to as ecosystem services; they depend on the maintenance of healthy native woodland ecosystems into the future.

In the survey, native woodlands are defined as: woods where most (over 50% of woodland canopy cover) is composed of species of tree or shrub that are native to locality and to the site. See the glossary for more definitions.

Native woodlands in Scotland are classified ecologically into several main habitat types, all of which are classed as UK priority habitats:

  • Lowland mixed deciduous woodland
  • Native pinewoods
  • Upland birchwoods
  • Upland mixed ashwoods
  • Upland oakwoods
  • Wet woodland

All Native Woodland Survey of Scotland (NWSS) reports will provide estimates the area of each of these types as well as total native woodland area in the report area.

A further UK priority type, Wood pasture and parkland, cannot be fully covered by NWSS data. This is because it includes both woodlands (defined as areas above 0.5 hectares with over 20% cover of trees/shrubs in the NWSS) and also areas of more scattered trees over pasture or parkland.

It overlaps the ecological types above as it is really a structural/cultural classification based on past management history. Further information on this habitat type and its management:

It should be possible to derive estimates of areas of EU priority woodland types such as Tilio-acerion and alluvial woodlands or Caledonian forest, but this is not always straightforward as some EU classifications cut across the definitions of UK priority types. These analyses will be considered by Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS) and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).

It is also possible to search the NWSS data to locate native woods by National Vegetation Community (NVC) types. This can give a picture of expected plant communities and other associated species, as well as the range of trees and shrubs that may have potential to grow and regenerate in any area of native woodland.

These communities may change as climate change affects sites. However, knowledge of the pattern of current NVC communities should improve our ability to predict and allow for these changes in future.

Policy relevance

The Scottish Forestry Strategy (SFS) and Scottish Government planning policy recognises the importance of native woods. They are all UK priority habitats, and some types are also listed as EU priority habitats under the EU Habitats and Species Directive.

SFS adopts targets from the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UKBAP) for expanding restoring and improving condition of native woods with distinct targets for each priority woodland type.

These efforts are generally best if focussed in developing forest habitat networks which expand core areas and develop functional connectivity for woodland dependent species. FCS has published guidance on developing native woodland networks (PDF 873KB). Scottish Government planning policy aims to avoid/minimise losses of high conservation value woods to development.

How might the NWSS data be used?

Examples of usesNationalRegional / local authorityLandscape / site scale
Baseline area for each priority type for BAP target reporting Yes Yes n/a
Area of native woodland types on ancient woodland sites Yes Yes n/a
Identifying location and type of native woodland (PH types or NVC types) for planning, management or expansion Yes Yes Yes