New inventories show rising volumes of carbon and biomass tied up in trees

The amount of carbon and biomass stored in Britain's woods and forests has been newly quantified by the Forestry Commission.

Image: Nigel Swales
Image: Nigel Swales

The two reports published today (30 May) present for the first time carbon and biomass estimates derived from direct measurements of living trees rather than from extrapolations from historical data.

This has yielded figures "significantly higher" than previous estimates, though Britain also currently harvests less than its annual tree growth, leading to an upward trend, the reports point out.

The commission's head of inventory and forecasting Peter Weston said: "These reports are the most accurate and robust which have ever been produced for Britain, compiled using much more sophisticated technology and techniques than were available to researchers in the past.

"As a result, they will enable governments, policy-makers, woodland managers and industry to plan ahead with confidence, and to report accurately on woodland's contribution to national climate change and carbon emissions targets."

The reports reveal that:

  • Britain's 2.9 million hectares of woods and forests contain 213 million tonnes of carbon and 426mt  of biomass;
  • Both quantities divide roughly in a ratio of 5:4:1 between England, Scotland and Wales respectively;
  • Conifers, concentrated in Scotland, account for just over half of each value, the rest being accounted for by broadleaved trees;
  • Sitka spruce are responsible for half of the conifer figures, while oaks account for 30 per cent of the broadleaf figures, twice the share of beech and ash;
  • Forests and woodlands managed by the Forestry Commission accounted for around 22.5 per cent of each figure, the rest being made up by the private sector.

Both publications can be downloaded from the Forestry Commission publications webpage.


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