Creating woodlands and targets for planting trees are important parts of the Climate Change Plan update to contribute to greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets.

Agroforestry combines trees and agriculture on the same plot of land, with tree density varying dependent on agricultural land type, tree species and objective. There has been growing interest in agroforestry systems as an opportunity to integrate land management objectives and contribute to meeting tree planting targets and generate GHG reductions and removals. However, currently a very small proportion (3.3%) of the area used for agriculture in the UK is managed as agroforestry. Carbon schemes, such as the Woodland Carbon Code (WCC) could offer a potential route to provide financial support and incentivise agroforestry.

This reports assesses the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through different forms of agroforestry. 

It finds that all forms of agroforestry have the potential to sequester carbon, although the benefits will vary depending on soil type, species, planting density and location.

The research suggests that the fastest rate of carbon sequestration is most likely to be achieved on highly productive lowland areas. Whilst benefits can also accrue on less productive uplands, avoiding disturbance of organic soil layers is a key consideration.

Drought, as a significant risk to Scottish forests, is likely to be exacerbated by the changing climate. This report summarises the current state of research, describes ongoing projects and identifies knowledge gaps and potential research directions. Considerations around the policy and practice implications are made, taking into account the available information.

Key findings
  • There is high confidence that especially in east, central, and south Scotland the direct effects of severe droughts are likely to be felt primarily in forest productivity and carbon sequestration. 
  • Tree species are known to differ in their vulnerability to drought impacts. The productivity of Scots pine, Douglas fir, and Sitka spruce can be heavily impacted by severe droughts. Trials of different species provenances have shown that there can be as large a variation in drought susceptibility between provenances as between species.
  • Drought effects are the result of the complex interplay between climate extremes, many different components of forest ecosystems and other biotic and abiotic disturbances. All these elements will be affected by climate change in ways that cannot be confidently projected, which makes predicting the interactions between them even more difficult.
  • There is medium confidence that applying dendrochronology (the study of annual growth increments, or tree rings) alongside remote sensing and drought indices could help understanding of the risk of large-scale drought impacts.

The process of risk measurement aims to quantify and measure risk over and above that which is expected i.e. it focuses on unexpected/catastrophic loss rather than expected/average loss. Risk management cannot eliminate risk but aims to take action to reduce the likelihood of risks occurring and to reduce the impact when they do.

This report looks at what lessons the Scottish forestry sector can learn from risk measurement and management approaches used in the financial sector.

We discuss a number of financial risk measurement and management approaches suitable to Scottish forestry, and consider how the approaches taken to measure and monitor risk, and the experiences of the finance sector – particularly during the recent financial crises – provide many lessons for the forestry sector as it seeks to adapt to the challenges of climate change.

Whilst many of the approaches outlined in this document are about reducing financial loss to the sector to ensure sector activities are preserved and supported, there are some lessons for wider preparatory approaches, and financial security itself will be an important factor in the resilience of the sector.

Contingency plans have the potential to increase adaptive capacity by enabling more rapid and efficient response to climate change risk events. As such, contingency plans provide economic benefits to forestry businesses, minimise the disruption to the natural environment, and support Scotland’s forests in continuing to deliver the widest range of ecosystem services.

This paper considers when contingency plans are necessary, and explores which climate risks to the forest sector in Scotland may benefit from national or regional contingency plans.

Contingency plans already exist across the forestry sector in Scotland, containing pre-agreed processes to be followed in response to a particular risk event, e.g. tree health and windblow contingency plans. However, we recommend that contingency planning should be part of the forest sector at all scales, from national and regional policy and planning to local application by forest managers. The plans should also cover wildfire, drought and flooding, and include projected impacts on infrastructure and forest businesses, and on important conservation habitats.

Scotland’s forestry supply chain has numerous stages, from nurseries, forest management, and timber harvesting, through to transport, and processing. This supply chain needs to develop resilience in the face of climate change. However, climate change will impact on the stages of the chain in different ways, increasing the complexity of the interdependencies between the stages. Scotland’s forest sector also has interdependencies with other sectors, including agriculture and construction, which are also expected to be impacted by climate change. These impacts, and changes made in response to them, may have secondary impacts for the forest sector.

This report sets out a theoretical overview of climate change impacts on Scotland’s forestry supply chain, with a focus on forest wood products. It looks at impacts on the natural environment including forests, but also on infrastructure such as energy, water, transport and communication, and on business operations.

The lists of impacts are not and will never be exhaustive. The focus is on growers and nurseries, forest management, harvesting, transport, and wood processing. The aim is to provide a framework for discussion with forestry sector experts that:

  • identifies climate change impacts on the forestry supply chain, and potential consequences of adaptation practices implemented in response; and
  • ensures that lack of adaptive capacity at any stage does not restrict the overall resilience of the sector.