The United Kingdom has no natural forest, but has about 650 000 hectares of semi-natural woodland of which 288 000 hectares are classed as ancient and semi-natural (1.2% of land area). This is mainly broadleaved, but includes the native pine forests of highland Scotland.
Semi-natural woodlands are especially significant for wildlife conservation because they support a high proportion of rare and threatened species. They are also important for landscape and cultural heritage.
Timber production and recreation are important uses of semi-natural woodland, but careful management is required to avoid conflict with special wildlife interests. Ancient semi-natural woodlands are especially valuable as some are remnants of the original post-glacial forest. Conservation of natural habitat is of prime importance.
Broadleaved tree species are a traditional part of much of the planted woodlands, the largely man-made landscape of the UK. Most of the common broadleaved tree species are either native to the British Isles, or have been established there for many centuries.
They have been planted for a wide variety of purposes: landscape, amenity, timber production, shelter and game. Their quality as timber trees is variable, but there is always a lively demand for good quality hardwood trees, and the broadleaved resource, as a whole, supports a small but viable sawmilling industry.
The commercial base of the forest industry relies heavily on introduced tree species, particularly Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) from North America. Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) is the only native conifer of economic significance. There are about a dozen conifer species in common forestry use.
The woodlands of the
Due to extensive afforestation and woodland creation programmes, forest cover in the
The Forestry Commission serves as the department of Forestry for the Westminster Government and within the devolved administrations of
Extensive programmes of woodland diversification are under way to improve landscape impacts, continuity of habitats, biodiversity provision, continuity of timber supply and opportunities for recreation. Restoration of semi-natural woodlands and creation of new native woodland habitats are also policy priorities, along with the creation of new woodlands on urban fringes. Valuable habitats, such as ancient woodland remnants, are protected as part of plantation management.
From a base of only 1.4% of land area in 1919, forests and woodland have expanded to cover 6% of the land area of
All forests, including Forest Service plantations, are managed on a sustainable basis and subject to independent audit and certification against the UKWAS. This Standard encompasses the UK Forestry Standard as a minimum, but also requires forest managers to deliver a programme of habitat restoration, conservation and environmental enhancement and social engagement, whilst ensuring economic viability.