The species composition of Scotland’s forests, and how this has changed over time, is a key indicator of the outcomes of policy.
Diverse forests provide the most resilient resource for community engagement, diverse species timber marketing, biodiversity, recreation and landscape, and support forest related tourism businesses. They reduce the risks associated with climate change and unforeseen changes in economic circumstances or public preference, hence FPG seeks to encourage the diversification of the forest resource.
The species composition of woodland creation is subject to continual professional and political scrutiny, but much less attention is paid to the impact of restocking choices on the species composition of the overall forest resource. This has only changed relatively modestly in recent decades. FPG believes more attention should be paid to the proportion of broadleaves and quality durable softwoods in the forest resource overall.
For example, in 2019, state-owned forests in Scotland comprised 92% conifer and only 8% broadleaves, just marginally different from the situation a quarter of a century ago (95% conifer and 5% broadleaved in 1995). Whilst there have been several policy efforts to diversify state-owned forests (“repositioning” sales and acquisition, quality broadleaves and restructuring), these have only had a very modest effect on the overall composition of the state-owned forest resource. Private / NGO owned forests continue to account for both the bulk of broadleaved woodland and most all the species diversification during recent decades; for example 34% of the area of private/NGO forests is broadleaved. However, recent years have seen a decreasing proportion of broadleaves in private sector woodland creation; and the proportion of broadleaves in restocking remains low (19% across all ownerships).