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NEWS RELEASE No: 1538612 APRIL 2012

Report reveals how much timber there is in Britain’s forests

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A diverse forest landscape where trees are an established and dominant component of the local landscape character

Britain’s forests contain an estimated 336 million cubic metres of coniferous timber, according to a report just published by the Forestry Commission.

Coniferous timber is timber produced by conifer trees such as pine, spruce, larch and fir species, and is also known as ‘softwood’. The ‘Standing Timber Volume for Coniferous Trees in Britain’ report, which contains important information for planning a range of forest-related developments, reveals that:

  • publicly owned forests managed by the Forestry Commission contain just more than one-third of the timber, at 125 million cubic metres;
  • forests in private and other forms of ownership contain about 211 million cubic metres;
  • Scotland has by far the largest volume of standing coniferous timber, with 212 million cubic metres, followed by England with 87 million cu.m. and Wales with 37 million cu.m;
  • Sitka spruce trees account for slightly more than half of all the coniferous timber, at 170 million cubic metres in Britain overall;
  • the next greatest volume of coniferous timber overall is accounted for by Scots pine, of which there are 51 million cu.m; and
  • there is more timber growing in Britain than was indicated by previous assessments based on the 1979-82 Census of Woodland and the 2010 Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA).

Peter Weston, Head of Inventory and Forecasting at the Forestry Commission, said,

“It is pleasing to build on the woodland area reports and maps which we published in 2011 with these robust, new estimates of coniferous standing volume. Knowing what we have on the ground now is an essential part of planning across a range of interests, including industry development, biodiversity and climate change.
“Further reports to be published later this year will explore the implications of these figures with particular reference to potential timber availability and carbon sequestration.''

The report can be downloaded from the National Forest Inventory pages of the Forestry Commission website at, where there is also a Questions and Answers document with more-detailed explanation and interpretation.

The website also contains a preliminary estimate of the standing volume of broadleaved, or ‘hardwood’, timber in Britain, of 234 million cubic metres. Further surveying and sampling of broadleaved timber volume is planned, and a final report will be published in 2013.

Further general information is available from Ben Ditchburn,, and statistical information from Alan Brewer,


  1. The report on Standing Coniferous Timber Volume is a product of the National Forest Inventory, a wide-ranging ‘stock-taking’ of Britain’s forests and their area, timber volume, biodiversity value, health and condition, and the weight of carbon and biomass they contain.
  2. ‘Standing volume’ is the volume of timber available in living trees standing in forests.
  3. Coniferous timber, also known as ‘softwood’, is timber produced by conifer trees, that is, trees that have cones and needles. Conifer species grown for timber in Britain include pine, spruce, fir and larch.
  4. Trees that have leaves and fruits or nuts are known as broadleaved trees and produce ‘hardwood’. Broadleaved species grown in Britain include oak, ash, beech, birch, alder, sycamore, poplar, willow and chestnut.
  5. The report contains detailed breakdowns of timber volumes by a range of criteria, including countries, regions and tree ages, as well as size classes as measured by tree diameter at breast height (dbh).
  6. Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) is popular with the wood-using industries because it grows fast and well in the soils and moist climate of northern and western Britain, it resists pests and diseases well, and it produces strong, white wood well suited to uses such as construction and papermaking.

Media contacts:

  • GB and England – Charlton Clark, 0131 314 6500, or Becci Turner, 0117 906 6030;
  • Scotland – Paul Munro, 0131 314 6507;
  • Wales – Clive Davies, 0300 068 0061.