Risk/opportunity:(from the Climate Change Risk Assessment for Scotland 2012):
FO5: Loss of native woodland biodiversity

Narratives: Suitability and productivity (forestry)

SCCAP theme: Natural environment

SCCAP objectives:
N3: Sustain and enhance the benefits, goods and services that the natural environment provides

Latest figures

Year

Area (ha)

Proportion of woodland (%)

2013

575, 000

41%

N.B. Calculations based on total area of woodland of 1,410,000 ha.

Source: Scottish Government, 2014

Trend
At a glance
  • There is considerable concern over the potential impact of climate change on forest biodiversity
  • High Nature Value (HNV) forestry identifies forestry and woodland management systems that support a high level of biodiversity
  • This indicator was developed by the Scottish Government and provides an estimate of the percentage of forest and woodland in Scotland that is considered to be of High Nature Value

'High Nature Value (farming and) forestry' (HNV forestry) refers to (farming and) forestry systems important for the environmental benefits they provide, including support for a range of habitats and species (such as butterflies and birds) considered to be of high nature conservation importance’ (Scottish Government, 2014).

Woodland supports a large number of plant and animal species and is an extremely important habitat for priority species listed in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (Moffat et al, 2012). There is considerable concern over the potential impact of climate change on forest biodiversity; the Scottish crossbill and capercaillie are among species likely to be adversely affected (Berry et al, 2011; cited in Moffat et al, 2012).

The HNV forestry indicator (along with that for HNV farming) was developed by the Scottish Government to help in monitoring the Scottish Rural Development Programme (SRDP) and other strategies, e.g. the Land Use Strategy (Scottish Government, 2014). It is anticipated that in future the indicator will be complemented with a further HNV indicator that will show uptake of particular Rural Development Programme measures related to HNV forestry.

This Scottish Government indicator is being utilised here to help understand the risk of a loss of woodland biodiversity due to a changing climate; with the direction and extent of change in HNV Systems enabling understanding of the degree to which land management actions are working to support or reduce the resilience of woodland biodiversity. It is anticipated that an increase in the area of woodland classified as HNV forestry would indicate that land management actions are working to potentially increase the resilience of woodland biodiversity to climate change.

Associated Indicators:

NA9: Proportion of farmland (Utilised Agricultural Area) under High Nature Value (HNV) farming

Native and ancient woodlands and planted woodlands that have a diverse structure and range of plant species are all defined as HNV forestry systems (Scottish Government, 2014). The definition of HNV forestry derives from European Commission guidance for the Rural Development Programme and includes the following sub-categories:

  • HNV Forestry Type A: semi-natural woodland features and low intensity managed woodland.
  • HNV Forestry Type B: diversity of features and low intensity managed woodland.

Of the 41% of all woodland that is HNV forestry, the percentages of HNV forestry Type A and Type B are shown below:

2013

% HNV forestry type A

52%

% HNV forestry type B

48%

Calculations are based on the total area of woodland in 2013: 1,410,000 ha. Source: Scottish Government, 2014

There has been no change in the percentage of all woodland that is HNV from the baseline year, 2010, to the latest survey in 2013. Within that, there is no change in the proportion of Type A and Type B HNV forestry. The total area of woodland has increased from 1,296,000 ha in 2010 to 1,410,000 ha in 2013.

The baseline for this indicator was calculated for 2010:

Year                        Area (ha)              Proportion (%)

2010                        529,000                  41%

Calculations are based on the total area of woodland in 2010: 1,296,000 ha. Source: Scottish Government, 2011

Of the 41% of woodland that was HNV forestry, the percentages of HNV Forestry Type A and Type B are shown below:

2010

% HNV forestry type A

52%

% HNV forestry type B

48%

Calculations are based on the total area of woodland in 2010: 1,296,000 ha. Source: Scottish Government, 2011

The proportion of forestry estimated to be HNV for each SRDP Rural Priorities Regional Proposal Assessment Committee (RPAC) area has been calculated, along with the RPAC contribution to total HNV forestry in Scotland. The following charts are taken from Scottish Government’s 2011 report on HNV forestry:

Figure 1: Percentage of forestry estimated to be HNV, by RPAC, 2009 (Source: Scottish Government, 2011)

Figure 2: RPAC contribution to total HNV forestry, 2010 (Source: Scottish Government, 2011)

Figure 1 shows that the proportion of woodland classified as HNV varies widely between RPAC regions. Forth has the highest percentage of HNV woodland (63%) and the Western Isles the lowest (8%). Figure 2 shows the contribution of each RPAC region to overall HNV forestry in Scotland.

Highland contributes the largest percentage of total HNV forestry area (35%).

There was no significant change in the estimated percentage of forestry that was HNV between 2010 and 2013. The area of HNV forestry increased slightly (from 529,000 ha to 575,000 ha) but the percentage of total woodland area estimated to be HNV forestry has remained the same at 41%.

In the future, the Scottish Government will seek to understand emerging trends in HNV forestry by identifying the influence of key drivers of change such as woodland creation and loss and other land use changes, and changes in woodland design and composition. They will use case studies to illustrate changes in forestry practices that are known to be important in terms of impact on biodiversity and will also cross-check trends in HNV forestry against other critical indicators such as relevant Scottish Biodiversity Strategy indicators (Scottish Government, 2011).

The indicator classifies forestry management systems which are HNV rather than specific sites on the ground that are HNV (Scottish Government, 2011).  As such, the indicator is not intended to be used to inform site specific management decisions but rather to monitor how rural development measures are impacting upon the extent of HNV forestry as a whole.

The percentage of woodland area which is HNV forestry is likely to be under-estimated as it excludes the Northern Isles and the total area of HNV forestry for Grampian and Moray is thought to be underestimated. The Native Woodland Survey Scotland (Forestry Commission, 2014) also notes that HNV forestry is likely to contain an underestimate of the amount of native woodland. This would also result in a lower overall percentage of HNV forestry.

Lack of spatial data for HNV forestry is an omission that has limited the level at which HNV Forestry can be calculated and mapped. The Scottish Government has acknowledged that data needs to improve in this respect (Scottish Government, 2011).

The process for identifying HNV forestry lags behind that of HNV farming (Scottish Government, 2011). The HNV forestry indicator developed for Scotland builds on EC guidance to create an indicator which is best suited to Scotland’s woodlands by ensuring that semi-natural woodlands and some planted woodlands, as well as young and old woodlands, are included where they are deemed to have a high value for biodiversity (Scottish Government, 2011).

Forestry Commission Scotland (2014) Scotland’s Native Woodlands: Results From the Scottish Native Woodland Survey. http://scotland.forestry.gov.uk/supporting/strategy-policy-guidance/native-woodland-survey-of-scotland-nwss/national-nwss-report

Moffat, A.J., Morison, J.I.L., Nicoll, B. & Bain, V. (2012) Climate Change Risk Assessment for the forestry sector. Defra. http://randd.defra.gov.uk/Default.aspx?Module=More&Location=None&ProjectID=15747

Scottish Government (2014) High Nature Value Farming and Forestry Indicators 2009 – 2013, an Official Statistics publication for Scotland, Agriculture Series, 27th March 2014. http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2014/03/8273

Scottish Government (2011) Developing High Nature Value Farming and Forestry Indicators for the Scottish Rural Development Programme – summary report of the Technical Working Group on High Nature Value Farming and Forestry Indicators. July 2011. Rural and Environment Science and Analytical Service, Scottish Government. http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2011/08/10135254/0

The information in this template comes from Scottish Government reports on High Nature Value Farming and Forestry (Scottish Government 2011 and 2014).

Suzanne Martin (RBGE/CXC) contributed as lead author on this indicator. Gilly Diggins (Scottish Government) provided guidance.