Woodlands & forestry

Native woodland planting in the Ochil Hills by Chris WernhamWhitethroat by Edmund FellowesCoal Tit by John HardingTrossachs in winter by Chris Wernham

Around 6,000 years ago forests probably covered most of Scotland’s land area. In 2006, only 17% of the land area was forested (lower than that of many other European countries). The Scottish Forestry Strategy sets an ambitious target to increase cover back to 25% by 2050. The Strategy also sets a target to increase the proportion of total forest area that comprises native tree species from 29% to 35% by 2050. Forestry Commission Scotland recognises the need to balance the range of biodiversity, environmental, economic, ecosystem service and other public benefits that woodlands can provide, and to integrate changes in forest cover with other land use.  A sound evidence base that allows predictions to be made about how changes in forest cover, the spatial distribution of woodland and habitat mosaics, and forest management will impact on biodiversity is required, and BTO Scotland has particular interests here.
Despite a wealth of published guidance on the effects of woodland and forestry management on birds, there are surprisingly few studies that have assessed rigorously the scientific evidence for the links between management and bird populations.  BTO Scotland is interested in the influences of standard commercial management practices on birds, such as thinning practices, the opportunities afforded to woodland and moorland birds by the sensitive management of forest edges, the changes in bird assemblages with the regeneration of scrub and woodland and native woodland expansion, and bird communities in expanding woodland types (e.g. short rotation forestry for woodfuel purposes). We are also interested in using a combination of modelling using BTO long-term datasets and specific field studies to predict the effects of spatial development of forest networks on Scotland’s bird populations. Much of our work in this area takes a multi-species approach but we also have current interests in individual woodland species (e.g. Hawfinches; Cuckoos).
BTO Scotland science in this area cuts across several of the BTO research themes, including multi-scale habitats and population dynamics and modelling.

Staff contact: John Calladine.