Trees and woodlands have an important role to play in capturing and storing carbon. They can also provide multiple other benefits - these include species and habitat diversity; landscape enhancement; livestock shelter; construction timber; wood fuel and other woodland products; enhanced water quality and flood mitigation.
The UK and Scottish Governments have set ambitious goals to increase overall woodland cover to sequester more carbon and help progress towards the net-zero targets. The Scottish Government's Programme for Scotland 2020-21 outlines their plans to support ongoing increases in tree planting and woodland creation from the current level of 12,000 hectares up to 18,000 hectares per year by 2024-25.
Integrating more trees into farming systems will make an important contribution to these goals whilst also giving benefits to many different elements of the farming system.
Glensaugh currently has around 7% woodland cover (70 ha) and is actively expanding this resource. Plans are in progress to plant a further 100 ha of woodland within the next three years, with careful planning to achieve multiple benefits. By directly addressing some of the synergies and potential conflicts with existing land uses and management of the farm business through our associated research, we will use the learning to inform this and future decisions relating to integrating woodland expansion as part of a farm business.
- Location - to suit multiple purposes - selecting sites that will deliver combinations of benefits for Glensaugh, including good tree growth rates for net carbon gain; visual amenity; connectivity and net biodiversity gain; provision of shelter; spatial integration with grazing land to maximise livestock management benefits.
- Tree species choice - matching species to site and soil types; planning for short- and longer-term forest products (e.g. early biomass fuel crop, species for long-term retention); nurse crops for slower growing higher-value timber species such as oak; biodiversity, visual amenity and more.
We have an active programme of research on woodland expansion for multiple benefits, including carbon, biodiversity, landscape etc. This spans multiple scales - from landscape-scale modelling to aid decision-making; pine provenance and resilience to climate change, pests and diseases; to detailed measurements of above-and below-ground changes in carbon, species composition etc during succession from open ground to woodland. We have several joint research projects with the Universities of Stirling and Edinburgh, with important new discoveries challenging some of the assumptions about net carbon gains and helping to better-inform decision-making in this important area.