Risk/opportunity:(from the Climate Change Risk Assessment for Scotland 2012):

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


Number of uses

Number of active users





2018 briefing based on updated data that does not directly replace earlier indicator.

At a glance
  • The ESC decision support tool provides guidance on appropriate tree species selection
  • It matches site characteristics to ecological requirements of individual tree species and woodland communities
  • ESC incorporates climate change projections for 2050 and 2080
  • Use of ESC is promoted by Forest Research, the Forestry Commission and private sector in climate change adaptation guidance
  • The indicator monitors the number of registered users and number of actual uses

The Ecological Site Classification Decision Support System (ESC-DSS) is a PC-based system developed by Forest Research.  It aims to guide forest managers in deciding the most appropriate species to plant, given site and soil characteristics.  It does this by matching key site factors with the ecological requirements of different tree species and woodland communities (as defined in the National Vegetation Classification (NVC) forGreat Britain). It can indicate the suitability of over 50 species to a site and soil type.  ESC-DSS is promoted to forest managers by Forestry Commission and Forest Research in their climate change adaptation guidance and training activities.

Since mid-2008 ESC has incorporated future climate change projections.  The current version, ESC 3.0, incorporates projections for the 2050 and 2080 low and high scenarios of UKCIP02 to allow users to incorporate future suitability into planting decisions.

These data show the number of registered users and the number of uses of the web based ESC-DSS software as recorded by Forest Research.

Related indicators:

NF1 Proportion of major timber species on Scotland’s National Forest Estate planted in areas likely to be climatically suitable in 2050 (Sitka spruce and Scots pine)

In 2012 ESC had 1012 uses, 240 active users and 151 new users registering.


The number of uses of ESC-DSS in Great Britain has steadily increased from 131 uses in 2009 to 1012 in 2012 (Table 1).  The number of new users registering has also steadily increased as has the total number of on-going active users.

Table 1 Use of ESC – Great Britain figures.


ESC Decision Support Tool Use (Annual Figures)


Number of 
New Users

Number of 
Active Users

Number of 
uses (log ins)





















ESC is being promoted through Forestry Commission Scotland and Forest Research climate change adaptation guidance and training, as well as through private sector organisations such as the Institute of Chartered Foresters.  It is expected that the number of uses and users will therefore continue to steadily increase.

The graphs below illustrate how use of ESC has been increasing in both the private forest sector and the Forestry Commission (FC). 


Figure 1: Number of New Users of ESC in total and split by private sector and Forestry Commission users -Great Britain figures.


Figure 2: Number of Active Users of ESC in total and split by private sector and Forestry Commission users -Great Britain figures.

Figure 3: Total number of uses of ESC per year in total and by private sector and Forestry Commission users -Great Britain figures.


ESC is being promoted through Forestry Commission, Forest Research and private sector climate change adaptation guidance and training. 

This indicator uses figures forGreat Britainrather than forScotlandbecause it is not possible to distinguish Scottish users from other users inGreat Britain.  It is hoped in the future the registration process will be adjusted so as to allow a Scottish level analysis of use.

ESC is available on CD as well as on-line via the Forest Research web site. The figures presented therefore under-represent the total use of ESC-DSS in Great Britain.  

This indicator was produced by Forest Research (Kate Beauchamp, Stephen Bathgate).