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British Woodlands Survey


The British Woodlands Survey (BWS) gathers evidence about the UK’s woodlands and those who care for them. It aims to provide an evidence base on which future policies and practice can be developed. BWS2015 is the third survey in the series. 

The latest British Woodlands Survey (BWS2015) was published in February 2016. The Royal Forestry Society is a member of the British Woodlands Survey Advisory Group. The British Woodlands Survey is co-ordinated by the Sylva Foundation within its think-tank Forestry Horizons.

The BWS2015 report is available to download here:  


Full citation: 

Hemery, G., Petrokofsky, G., Ambrose-Oji, B., Atkinson, G., Broadmeadow, M., Edwards, D., Harrison, C., Lloyd, S., Mumford, J., O’Brien, L., Reid, C., Seville, M., Townsend, M., Weir, J., and Yeomans, A., (2015). Awareness, action and aspiration among Britain’s forestry community relating to environmental change: Report of the British Woodlands Survey 2015. Sylva Foundation (Forestry Horizons). 32 pp.



  • Overall, accordance with guidelines for adaptation within the UK Forestry Standard is currently low.

  • High awareness among woodland stewards of environmental change impacts may provide new opportunities to engage with woodland managers, particularly if focussed around issues of direct and local relevance.

  • Professionals and agents were generally more aware and active in implementing adaptation measures than owners, indicating that existing sources of information and outreach activities among these groups are effective.

  • Lack of information and advice available to woodland owners and managers to help them respond to existing and emerging threats surfaced as a key issue. A number of owners expressed a view that subjects covered by the survey were too technical. Existing assumptions concerning comprehension and knowledge of adaptation and resilience may be unrealistic.

  • A dearth of contingency plans among owners and managers to deal with major events such as fire, pest and disease outbreaks, and extreme weather, is of considerable concern.

  • Low awareness of climate projections for their locality, together with lack of knowledge of soils, means that most woodland stewards are unaware of the potential impacts of environmental change. Most owners have not reviewed future species suitability and are therefore unaware of the potential for creating more resilient forests.

  • Uncertainty around the concept of provenance, improved material and genetic diversity points to a requirement for improvements in education.

  • Low levels of awareness and action in relation to biosecurity among owners, which was only marginally better among professional foresters, could involve a review of the feasibility of recommended approaches, an assessment of risks, and feed into predictive modelling.

  • Targeted funding to support actions which might benefit the resilience of woodlands, in particular pest management and control, would be highly beneficial.

  • Many of the actions for increasing resilience will flow from good management planning and levels of understanding of the issues, both of which appear to be insufficient. The high number of woodlands without a management plan will undermine attempts to improve resilience.


Advisory Group:

The British Woodlands Survey 2015 was supported by an Advisory Group comprising representatives of Climate Ready, Confor, Country Land & Business Association, Forestry Commission England, Forest Research, Natural England, Royal Forestry Society, Sylva Foundation, University of Oxford, and Woodland Trust. Funding was provided by the Forestry Commission, Oxford University and the Woodland Trust. 


Further Information: 

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