Biodiversity and Environment

Biodiversity action plans


After 1992, when the UK signed up to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (a convention which includes woodlands), the country became obliged to meet certain biodiversity targets (and in fact the UK was the first country to develop a comprehensive national plan of action - the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, or UKBAP). The advent of a degree of devolution in the UK meant that the UKBAP had to be recast, and the work is now co-ordinated by a joint committee of the constituent countries working toward the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework. Despite these changes in administration there is still an underlying objective of protecting and enhancing a range of priority species and habitats, often still based on the objectives and classifications of the original UKBAP.

UKBAP priority habitats involving woodlands

Priority Habitats


Rivers, threatened river species and water quality can benefit considerably from riparian woodland planting.

Wood-Pasture and Parkland 

These are mosaic habitats valued for their often ancient trees (the oldest living organisms in the UK) and the species they support (particularly insects, lichen and fungi) that are unique to such habitats. Many Forest Carbon projects involve the creation of new woodland habitat to support and link remnants of these ancient woodlands.

Upland Oakwood


Upland oakwoods are characterised by a predominance of oak (generally sessile oak, but also Pedunculate oak) and birch, and also including rowan, hazel and holly. Ground cover typically includes bluebells, bramble, fern, bracken and moss. 

Upland oakwoods also have a distinctive bird life, being associated with redstarts, wood warblers and pied flycatchers. In Wales the woods are the main breeding areas for red kites. 

This type of woodland, as found in the UK and Ireland, is recognised as important internationally because of its rarity elsewhere.

Upland Mixed Ashwoods

Ash woodlands that also contain oak, yew, birch, elm, lime and hazel trees, and are found in upland Britain and Northern Ireland.

Ashwoods are amongst the richest habitats for wildlife in the uplands, notable for bright displays of flowers, including rare species such as Jacob's Ladder and autumn crocus. Ashwood also often contain rare tree species, such as whitebeam and large-leaved lime. 

Upland Birchwoods

These woodlands are dominated by silver and downy birch, and often include rowan, juniper, willow and aspen.

Native Pine Woodlands 

Native pinewoods occur on infertile soils, and although they do not support a large diversity of plants and animals compared with some more fertile habitats they do house a characteristic plant and animal community which includes many rare and uncommon species.

The main tree species is Scots pine although birch, rowan, alder, willow, and bird cherry are also found. Old or dead trees and rotting wood supports significant beetle and bryophyte communities. Britain`s only endemic bird species, the Scottish crossbill, and rare species such as twinflower and one-flowered wintergreen are also found mainly in the native pinewoods.

In pre-historic times native pine forests may have covered over 1.5 million ha in the Scottish Highlands, but now they only some 16,000 hectares. Regeneration is being hampered in many areas by heavy browsing by deer and sheep, however recent regeneration schemes have experienced some success.

Biodiversity, woodland creation and quality assurance

Biodiversity is so important to the health of our environment that anyone planting a forest in the UK needs permission from the Forestry Commission before going ahead - a process that involves a host of biodiversity and other surveys and consultations, including consultations with bodies such as Natural England and the RSPB.

Gold standard certification for all types of woodland scheme in the UK is the UK Woodland Assurance Standard (UKWAS), which covers areas such biodiversity, woodland design, sustainable management and environmental impact. Certification to this standard ensures that woodlands meet the requirements of the government's UK Forestry Standard (UKFS), plus those of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes (PEFC). The vast majority of Forest Carbon woodlands are UKWAS certified, and where they aren't they do all nonetheless meet the requirements of the UK Forestry Standard.
Forest Carbon and Biodiversity As at February 2015 Forest Carbon has completed over 70 projects, creating over 2,800 hectares (7,000 acres) of new woodlands. Of this total over 1,600 hectares (4,000 acres) are UK Biodiversity Action Plan Priority Habitat Types. In addition to this there are many projects that provide extensions to existing ancient semi-natural woodlands, and 100 miles of riverbank planting offering watercourses protection from diffuse pollution, and cooling the water, providing enhanced habitats for aquatic life.