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Adapting Scotland's forests to a future climate

Glen Affric Cale forestGlenfinnan landscapeDalavich West Argyle

How will climate change affect forests and forestry in Scotland?


With climate change now one of the greatest global challenges, research is underway to establish the likely impacts on all aspects of the environment. Information in these pages provides an initial description of the likely impacts on aspects of Scotland's forest industry, with preliminary recommendations on how the industry might respond and adapt to the challenge.

There are many uncertainties in the extent and range of climate change, and its likely impact on trees, management systems and forest operations. A key basis for risk planning and management is diversification; from broadening the choice of genetic material, mixing tree species in stands, to varying management systems and the timing of operations.

As trees take many decades to mature, foresters must anticipate much further into the future than other land-managers. Although our knowledge about the likely effects of climate change is continually improving, it is important that today’s policy is informed by predictive research, albeit imperfect.

About the information provided

Information has been compiled from knowledge within the forest scientific community.

In addition, spatial modelling, using the decision-support tool Ecological Site Classification (ESC), has been applied to future climate emissions scenario projections to examine likely changes in tree species suitability.

Maps are indicative and use coarse-resolution soil information with future climate variables derived from simulations provided by the United Kingdom Climate Impacts Programme (2002) (UKCIP02) at 5 km resolution. It is very important that the maps are used only to infer trends, and that forest planning for the future climate involves careful site- and stand-based consideration.

Funders and partners

Forestry Commission logo Forestry Commission Scotland logo
This research is funded by the Forestry Commission Climate Change programme and Forestry Commission Scotland.

Forestry Commission policy

Forestry Commission policy on climate change stems from the UK Government's response to the Kyoto Protocol with the publication of the strategic document on climate change: ‘Climate Change – the UK programme’ published in November 2000. The Forestry Commission and Northern Ireland Forest Service helped to produce this strategy and are responsible for ensuring that our forestry policies and practices allow UK woodlands to withstand the rigours of climate change.

Cover of Scottish Forestry Strategy 2006The Scottish Forestry Strategy identifies climate change as the number one theme cross-cutting all other aspects of forestry. The strategy calls for a robust adaptation policy to prepare the industry to adjust and maintain or improve sustainable forest management.

Publications and reports

Research Notes


Other publications


For further information contact:

Duncan Ray