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Social, cultural and economic values of contemporary non-timber forest products: Wild Harvests

SummaryCHANTERELLE FUNGI(Cantharellus cibarius). MORAY FD

Non-timber forest products (NTFPs) are any biological resources found in woodlands except timber.  They include, edible and medicinal plants, mushrooms, moss and lichen, bark, foiliage and cones, as well as small wood products, wild and managed game.

Interest in contemporary uses of NTFPs is growing amongst land managers, policy makers and rural development specialists world-wide. Much of the interest in NTFPs is due to the benefits it is felt they can deliver for the economy, society and the natural environment.

Despite speculation about the important social, economic and environmental benefits of NTFPs, they are not well understood. Understanding the values of these products is however critical if their use is to be sustainably managed.

In 2003 the Forestry Commission funded a small survey on NTFP use in Scotland. The survey found that around one quarter (24%) of respondents had gathered wild fungi, plant and tree materials from Scottish woodlands in the last five years, with 80% of these, having collected products in the last 12 months.

Building on the results of the survey, Forest Research took forward a collaborative research project exploring ‘Wild Harvests From Scottish Woodlands’. Working with NTFP research specialists and NTFP gatherers, it explored the social, cultural and economic role of contemporary non-timber forest products’ in Scotland.

Summary of research, findings and recommendations (PDF-162K)

ObjectivesSORBUS AUCUPARIA . Seeds of Mountain Ash...

In particular, the work explored:

  • NTFPs gathered in Scottish woodlands, their end products/uses and associated markets and commodity chains.
  • NTFP gatherers and how their use of NTFPs supports social, cultural and economic aspects of life in contemporary Scotland. A particular focus will be on exploring how they link with and support rural and urban economies.
  • Issues important to understanding how to promote sustainable management of NTFP use in Scotland.

Funders and partners

The research project was funded by:

It was conducted by a team of international researchers and NTFP specialists:

US Forest Service - Dr. Marla R. Emery

Dr Emery’s is a Research Geographer with the Northeastern Research Station of the USDA Forest Service. She also serves as Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Geography, University of Vermont, USA. Her PhD, awarded in 1998 from Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, explored ‘Invisible Livelihoods: Non-Timber Forest Products in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula’.

She will contribute to the research design, carry out the field work, analysis and dissemination.

Independent NTFP consultant - Alison Dyke

Alison Dyke is a specialist in Scottish NTFPs. She is currently writing a PhD on the subject.  Her other work includes the documentation of the relatively new but growing commercial Scottish mushroom industry and identifying social and ecological considerations important to its sustainable development. She has also been central to the innovative Scottish Wild Mushroom Forum, a process involving pickers, buyers, landowners, conservation organisations, and public land managers in the development of guidelines for harvesting and management.

Alison will assist in the project design, analysis and dissemination.

Forest Research

Forest Research will be the co-ordinating partner for the project and host organisation for Dr Marla Emery on her visit to Scotland.


Other information

The Flora Celtica initiative of the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, lead by William Milliken, has catalogued uses of native plants, in Scotland through both archival and ethnographic research . It also provided an assessment of the commercial development potential of Scottish plants. Results from this project include a website with an online database of plants and their uses, as well as several public education tools.

ReForesting Scotland are also doing work to promote the use of NTFPs and have published a Community Woodland Information Sheet on NTFPs and in Spring 2003 devoted an edition of their journal to the issue.


Wild harvests from Scottish woodlands - final report published (see above).


For more information contact:

David Edwards