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NEWS RELEASE No: 1627130 MAY 2014

Carbon and biomass content of British forests quantified

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Still water provides a reflective quality to a woodland landscape scene

The amount of carbon and biomass stored in the live trees in Great Britain’s woods and forests is revealed in two reports published today by the Forestry Commission.

They present for the first time carbon and biomass estimates which have been derived from direct measurements of the current ‘growing stock’ (growing trees) rather than from extrapolations from historical data.

They reveal that the trees in Britain’s 2.9 million hectares of woods and forests contain:

  • 213 million tonnes of carbon; and
  • 426 million tonnes of biomass (plant material).

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

“There is growing recognition of the role that woods and forests can play in mitigating damaging climate change and providing a sustainable, low-carbon source of energy. This means it is more important than ever that we have robust data quantifying the amount and distribution of the carbon and biomass held in our woodland trees.     

“These reports are the most accurate and robust which have ever been produced for Britain, because they are based on direct measurement of what is in the woods now rather than on extrapolations from historical data. They were also compiled using much more accurate and sophisticated technology and techniques than were available to researchers in the past.

“As a result, they will enable governments, policy-makers, woodland managers and industry to plan ahead with confidence, and to report accurately on woodland’s contribution to national climate change and carbon emissions targets.”

The reports are entitled “Biomass in Live Woodland Trees in Britain” and “Carbon in Live Woodland Trees in Britain”. They are two in a series of outputs for the National Forest Inventory (NFI), and are available to download from the NFI pages of the Forestry Commission website at

Future NFI reports will present forecasts of the potential changes over the next 25 years in the carbon and biomass content of Britain’s woods and forests as trees are harvested and replanted, and new woodland is planted.


1. The headline figures for each of the countries in Great Britain are:

  • England – 105 million tonnes carbon; 211m tonnes biomass;
  • Scotland – 85m tonnes carbon; 171m tonnes biomass;
  • Wales - 22m tonnes carbon; 44m tonnes biomass.

2. The reports also present regional breakdowns for England and Scotland, and for different types and species of trees.

3. The weight of biomass is expressed in the report as oven-dry tonnes.  An oven-dry tonne (ODT) is the weight of biomass after all moisture has been driven off. Biomass is all of the material making up a tree.

4. The reports cover the carbon and biomass in living trees, including the roots, which were standing in forests and woodland in March 2011. They do not include the carbon and biomass contained in dead trees, woodland animals, forest soils, other woodland plants such as shrubs, ferns and grasses etc, or in trees outside woods and forests.

6. Previous estimates of the carbon and biomass content of trees in British forests have relied on extrapolations from other data, especially data contained in the NFI’s predecessor, the National Inventory of Woodland & Trees (NIWT), compiled in the 1990s. However, the NIWT did not contain information about small woods in rural areas, or data about urban woodland; trees’ height and diameter were not individually measured, and tree numbers were not counted, as they have been (in a statistically designed sample) for today’s reports.

7. The National Forest Inventory exists to gather and compile comprehensive and accurate information about Britain’s trees, woods and forests, including woodland area, species composition, timber availability and volume, age and condition, biodiversity, carbon, biomass and other aspects.

Media contacts:

  • GB and England - Charlton Clark, 0300 067 5049
  • Scotland – Paul Munro, 0300 067 6507
  • Wales – Curig Jones, Natural Resources Wales, 029 2046 6251