How much carbon and woodfuel do farm woodlands contain?

A survey of farm woodlands as a first step towards a better understanding of this growing land-use type and to increase its contribution to the green economy

News from Forest Research: February 2012

Farmland

The area of UK farm woodland has increased by over 50% in recent years — from 500,000 hectares in 2000 to 779,000 hectares in 2009, almost half of which is in England. Farm woodlands offer many potential benefits, including carbon storage and woodfuel production, yet indirect evidence suggests that many such woodlands are not actively managed. On behalf of Forestry Commission England, Forest Research undertook a survey of farm woodlands as a first step towards a better understanding of this growing land-use type and to increase its contribution to the green economy.

The objective was to quantify the above-ground standing biomass and carbon in a sample of farm woodlands. In 2011, we assessed 60 woodland compartments on 28 farms, compiling data that were used in models to calculate the biomass (in oven dry tonnes, odt) and carbon (in tonnes, t).

The woodlands were very variable but the average woodland area per farm was 26 hectares. The total woodland biomass per farm averaged 3800 odt or 90 odt per hectare. The biomass was mainly in stemwood (61%), followed by branchwood (23%) and roundwood (16%). The total woodland carbon per farm averaged 1833 t, with an average of 45 t carbon per hectare.

Most of the woodlands were mixed broadleaves with occasional mixed conifer areas. About two-thirds of the woodlands were unthinned and almost all were planted rather than naturally regenerated.

Despite the survey’s limited sample size, a number of useful conclusions can be drawn. It is clear, for example, that more woodland is managed and used to a greater extent than is often thought. It was also evident that if managed correctly, and barriers were overcome, these farm woodlands, as well as being a significant store of carbon, could bring quite substantial quantities of biomass into the market.

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This and other news stories can be found in the Winter 2011/2012 issue of FR News, our online newsletter.