Woodland Opportunity Mapping in England

posted in: Climate Change, England, Woodland | 2

Working closely with Friends of the Earth Terra Sulis has extended the opportunity woodland mapping to all of England and analysed woodland cover and opportunities in National Parks. Friends of the Earth now have an online map viewer for England that shows the results which are searchable by post code, making it easy for you to assess the existing woodland resources of your local area and understand what the potential for new woodland without encroaching on arable land or priority habitats and protected areas.

You can read the FoE’s informative briefing on national parks here: Missing in action: natural climate solutions in England’s national parks

Further information about the methodology, data sets and application can be found on woodlands.terrasulis.org

2 Responses

  1. Lawrence Alderson

    The ‘Woodland Opportunity Mapping’ project fails to address wider issues. Its specific focus on tree planting fails to take into account the value of alternative uses. Analysis of the map at field level reveals an assumption that trees should replace long-term grassland and upland grazing as a priority. Thereby it dismisses the value of species-rich grassland, carbon sequestration capacity of all grassland (ranging from lowland slopes to upland grazing, heathland, wood-pasture and moorland), amenity opportunity, genetic conservation and food production. Areas that I know intimately, comprising grassland of high biodiversity and agricultural use, are shown on the map as ‘woodland opportunity’.
    I have published papers since 2008 exposing the danger of unfettered focus on tree planting, and many others have done so more recently. It is unethical, and lacking balanced evaluation, to lobby and recommend the concept of sacrificing grassland in order to plant forests as a policy for English landscape.

  2. admin

    The ‘Woodland Opportunity Mapping’ project fails to address wider issues. Its specific focus on tree planting fails to take into account the value of alternative uses.

    As a woodland opportunity map its specific focus is on opportunities for woodland creation – by the land owners, in the right circumstances and after an ecological survey.

    Analysis of the map at field level reveals an assumption that trees should replace long-term grassland and upland grazing as a priority.

    New woodland will have to displace some other land cover and can only be created by landowners. The FoE map does not target uplands, rather it uses the Agricultural Land Classification to identify the low quality categories that are not protected, including land on steep slopes.

    Thereby it dismisses the value of species-rich grassland, carbon sequestration capacity of all grassland (ranging from lowland slopes to upland grazing, heathland, wood-pasture and moorland), amenity opportunity, genetic conservation and food production.

    The FoE map does not “dismiss” the value of species-rich grassland, heathlands, moorlands, etc, rather it: 1) explicitly excludes some 2,348,000 hectares of moors and priority habitats including known species-rich grasslands, in addition to other protected areas , 2) FoE explicitly states that ecological surveys should be undertaken to avoid the loss of species-rich grassland, that are not in the priority habitats inventory, and other important habitats.

    Areas that I know intimately, comprising grassland of high biodiversity and agricultural use, are shown on the map as ‘woodland opportunity’.”

    It is a known deficiency of publicly available data that they are incomplete and for all of England there will be omissions. There needs to be a more complete inventory funded by government to plug such information gaps and ecological surveys prior to any woodland creation – as stated by FoE. The government should also release into the public domain information it holds on the distribution of peatland.

    The government policy of creating new woodland will displace something else and rather than displace good quality agricultural land the FoE woodland opportunity map focuses on poor quality Grade 4 land and land on steep slopes.

    “I have published papers since 2008 exposing the danger of unfettered focus on tree planting, and many others have done so more recently.”

    The woodland opportunity map is not “unfettered” for precisely this reason.

    It is unethical, and lacking balanced evaluation, to lobby and recommend the concept of sacrificing grassland in order to plant forests as a policy for English landscape.

    Global heating is going to drastically change the English landscape. It would be unethical not to seek to rebalance English land cover to mitigate this threat. There needs to be a big discussion about how this is done and this map is part of that discussion and is not dissimilar to the maps made by the Forestry Commission. It is not “unethical”.