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Woodland creation target missed due to damage caused by winter storms

Scotland’s tree-planting ambition was impacted by multiple storms across the country during the winter (Kami Thomson/DCT Media/PA)
Scotland’s tree-planting ambition was impacted by multiple storms across the country during the winter (Kami Thomson/DCT Media/PA)

A series of storms across the UK during the winter caused Scotland to miss its woodland creation target.

A target of 13,500 hectares of new woodland in 2021/22 was set out as part of the Scottish Government’s climate change plans.

Despite efforts to approve enough schemes to achieve the target, 10,480 hectares was planted throughout the year – nearly 80% of the target, according to Scottish Forestry.

The sector faced challenges arising from spells of extremely bad weather during the winter, with resources having to be diverted from planting to the recovery of the millions of trees that were brought down across the country.

Gale force winds during Storm Arwen last November resulted in damage to 8,000 hectares of woodland – the equivalent of around 16 million trees.

Statistics from Scottish Forestry show the majority of the yearly target’s shortfall was located in the areas most badly affected by the poor weather, including Grampian, south Scotland and Perthshire.

Despite the weather’s impact, an ambition set out in the Bute House Agreement, calling for the creation of more than 4,000 hectares of native woodland, was achieved by the sector.

Some 4,360 hectares of native species was planted over the year, equating to 42% of the overall woodland planted.

Environment minister Mairi McAllan said: “Over the last four years Scotland has consistently created over 10,000 ha of new woodland each year. This has been achieved during the challenges caused by Brexit, the global Covid pandemic, and the worst winter storms for over 10 years.

“Whilst it is disappointing that we have not met this year’s target, mother nature dealt us a salutary lesson of the power of the weather and reminded us of the challenges of climate change.

“Even now, clear-up operations from the storms are continuing so it is no surprise that they had an effect on tree planting operations.

“It is good news that we have comfortably met our native woodland target and Scotland is punching above its weight in creating over three quarters of all the UK’s new woodlands.

“The future is also looking very encouraging as there is a very healthy demand for woodland creation projects in the pipeline. Scottish Forestry is accelerating applications for woodland creation schemes and is already working on around 13,000 ha worth of new projects.”