Woodland is defined in UK forestry statistics as land under stands of trees with a canopy cover of at least 20% (25% in Northern Ireland), or having the potential to achieve this. The definition relates to land use, rather than land cover, so integral open space and felled areas that are awaiting restocking are included as woodland. Further information, including how this UK definition compares with the international definition of woodland, is provided in the Sources chapter.
Statistics on woodland area are used to inform government policy and resource allocation, to provide context to UK forestry and land management issues and are reported to international organisations. They are also used in the compilation of natural capital accounts.
Increases in woodland area result from the creation of new woodland. This can be achieved through new planting or by natural colonisation of trees on land near existing woodland. Further information is available in the section on New Planting.
Decreases in woodland area result from the conversion of woodland to other land uses. Regulatory approval is usually required before trees can be felled. Felling approval will normally require the area to be restocked, but there are some cases in which trees may be permanently removed, generally for environmental reasons. The permanent removal of trees may also be authorised under planning regulations, to enable development.
Most public sector woodland is owned and managed by the Forestry Commission (FC) in Great Britain and the Forest Service (FS) in Northern Ireland. The Forestry Commission's functions in Wales transferred to a new organisation, Natural Resources Wales (NRW), on 1 April 2013. Figures shown as "Forestry Commission" in this chapter include woodland in Wales that is now managed by NRW. Other public sector woodland (e.g. owned by local authorities) are included with privately owned woodland as “non-FC/FS” in this release.