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A powerful incentive - RFS Statement on the British Woodland Survey 2017
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The Royal Forestry Society welcomes the publication of the British Woodland Survey 2017 (BSW2017) today. The survey provides a powerful incentive to better value the forestry sector for the future and a case for action, says the Royal Forestry Society (RFS).

It provides valuable insights in particular to the case for building resilience in our woodlands,finding ways to value and be paid for ecosystem services and to incentivise new planting.

RFS Chief Executive Simon Lloyd says: "It is interesting to note that although respondents were strongly motivated to diversify tree species to support biodiversity (76%) and forest health (72%), there remain significant barriers to tree species diversification as a strategy to mitigate the impact of environmental change, pests and disease. We need to further explore where fears lie. We need to ensure our woodlands are fit for the future."

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On new planting, respondents indicated they could create 26,218ha of new planting - equivalent to a 0.83% increase in the UK's woodland area - with the right incentives, a powerful signal to revisit the current grant system which is not driving a much needed step change in woodland creation.

Payments for Natural Capital (ecosystem services) could be the key, Simon Lloyd explains: "Most respondents considered their land provided valuable ecosystem services, but 76-85% were uncertain about the economic value of their land for ecosystem services such as pollination; soil erosion protection; water flow regulation; cultural; carbon storage/sequestration; and recreation.

" As talks about the future of land use and grants post Brexit continue, payment for ecosystem services represent a potential incentive for farmers and other landowners to better manage existing woodland and to plant new woods, while at the same time increasing public understanding of the value woodlands bring to local economies and communities."

Of the 1,630 respondents to the survey (representing approximately one fifth of woodlands in private ownership), RFS members were the largest group of respondents.

Chief Executive Simon Lloyd says: " We thank all members who took the time to complete the survey. Only be gathering data from those owning and managing woodlands on the ground is the sector able to look to build policies which will be of real benefit."

The British Woodland Survey is co-ordinated by Sylva Foundation. Read the full survey here