C: Other survey information relevant to both native and ancient woods

This section provides details of the following other areas of survey information:

Open areas

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

Open areas are a natural component of woodlands, and both open and edge habitats are important to a significant proportion of woodland species for part or all of their needs.

Open areas include a range of habitat types and both temporary openings that are early successional stages, e.g. after felling or windthrow, as well as more permanent gaps such as glades and rides. Open areas are dynamic to some extent in semi-natural woods; regeneration often occurs in open glades, whilst new openings develop as stands of old trees die.

The survey maps open areas (above 0.5 hectares; under 20% tree cover, and over 20m width) that are sited within woodland, and is at least partly linked to native woodland polygons. Broad habitat type is recorded: e.g. acid grassland, dwarf shrub heath, etc. Smaller openings within the native woodland polygons are taken into account in the calculation of canopy cover.

Policy relevance

Open areas within native woods are important for reaching biodiversity targets for some priority species and contribute to native woodland condition. The Scottish Forestry Strategy has a priority action to ‘restore and improve condition of native woods and associated open habitats’.

How can the NWSS data be used?

Type of useNationalRegional/local authorityLandscape/site scale
Assessing potential habitat for particular woodland glade or edge species to target survey or management Yes Yes Yes
Assessing areas with potential for tree regeneration Yes Yes Yes

Other features

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

A range of human activities and biotic impacts can affect the health of native and ancient woodlands and can reduce their health and biodiversity value.

These include:

  • built development of various types
  • local nutrient enrichment
  • dumping and fly-tipping
  • fire
  • pollution
  • erosion
  • die-back.

Information on threats will build a picture of patterns of impact which will inform responses.

Other features recorded in the survey are helpful in indicating type of use eg pheasant-rearing, recreational facilities.

Policy relevance

Maintaining woodland health as well as environmental quality and biodiversity value are important aspects of the Scottish Forestry Strategy.

How can the NWSS data be used?

Type of useNationalRegional/local authorityLandscape/site scale
Analyse patterns of threats to site biodiversity like dumping and enrichment, to develop response strategy (e.g. target grants or preventive measures) Yes Yes Yes
Analyse patterns and amount of built development in relation to native and ancient woods Yes Yes Yes
Early warning of die-back caused by insects and fungi (needs follow up by experts) Yes Yes Yes

Building habitat networks

Why is this important?

Fragmentation and loss of area has diminished the ecological quality of native woodlands, contributed to historic extinctions such as those of lynx, wolf and beaver, and helped to simplify extensive forest mosaics into isolated pure pinewoods or birchwoods in upland areas.

Losses of semi-natural woods are at a much slower rate at present but species still suffer from historical losses. Risks of local extinctions are likely to increase in response to pressure from climate change. It is desirable to increase the size and functional connectivity of many native woods to increase their resilience and capacity to support a full range of the remaining species and to allow movement to new areas.

The development of habitat networks is a strong aspect of land use policy. NWSS data will help to create a firm basis for network planning by establishing location and quality of native woods to build upon. Users can analyse NWSS data at different levels to identify existing and potential networks; for example networks might be identified for:

  • native woods in general
  • selected priority habitat types, e.g. wet woodland
  • habitat features needed for particular species, e.g. veteran trees/mature trees/areas with high amounts of dead wood/areas with specific host tree species.

Forest Research (FR) and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) have developed models, regional analyses and guidance to help identify and design forest habitat networks and integrated habitat networks. Based on this FCS has published guidance and maps on developing native woodland networks (PDF 873k) to guide native woodland expansion. The present version is based on pre-NWSS data and so the network maps will be updated with NWSS data for complete local authority areas in batches.

There is currently no established method for measuring connectivity in general, but FCS will draw upon current efforts to develop connectivity indicators across the UK. If successful this will be considered for use on NWSS data.

Policy relevance

The Scottish Forestry Strategy includes planting native woods to develop habitat networks as a priority action, and the development of integrated habitat networks (including woodland and other habitats and land uses) is identified in the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy as a key action. The importance of habitat and green networks are also flagged in Scottish Planning Policy (see Guidance on using data relating to native woodland plans on the National Forest Estate).

How can the NWSS data be used?

Type of useNationalRegional/local authorityLandscape/site scale
Use in developing local habitat network plans, green network plans and in Local Authority development plans Yes Yes Yes
Updating maps of potential native woodland habitat networks. Yes Yes Yes
Identifying existing and potential networks for selected species or habitat features Yes Yes Yes
Comparison of connectivity and size of native woodland (all types) or for individual types Yes Yes Yes