West Lothian forest habitat network


Cobbinshaw Moss SSSI (West Lothian) open habitat connections to wet grassland, wet heathland and mires within adjacent plantations

West Lothian currently has over 6500 ha of woodland (approximately 14% of the land cover), most woodland is coniferous and of plantation origin.  The Ancient and Semi-Natural Woodland (ASNW) Inventory lists only 316 ha in the county, most of which is concentrated in three areas in small fragmented blocks. 

The West Lothian Biodiversity Action Plan has suggested eight action points to maintain and enhance woodland biodiversity and expand the woodland area:

  • Identify and map sites
  • Survey important woodlands
  • Encourage restoration and good management
  • Plan conservation management
  • Train planners
  • Expand woodlands by natural regeneration and planting
  • Encourage new woodland planting
  • Develop and promote forest habitat networks (FHNs).

This study, completed in March 2004, assessed the impact of Local Development Plans on fragmented Ancient Semi-Natural Woodland, and the potential for creating FHNs within the county. It addressed a number of the local biodiversity action plan (LBAP) action points. Woodland expansion options were discussed in context with the local plan, existing urban areas and the important open habitats.


  • Identify the core woodland areas of high biodiversity value
  • Use a focal species approach to help understand and test the landscape patch mosaics for the conservation of woodland biodiversity
  • Examine the effect of native woodland expansion on key open-habitats and their associated biodiversity
  • Identify potential conflicts between the need for woodland expansion in areas designated for development in the West Lothian Local Plan.


Development of Forest Habitat Network Strategy in West Lothian - Final report (PDF-384K)

Development of Forest Habitat Network Strategy in West Lothian - Appendices (PDF-803K)

Functionally connected habitat networks: the maps show the extent and total area of functionally connected habitat in each network.

  • Map showing dispersal limited (1 km) broadleaved woodland specialists
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    Dispersal limited (1 km) broadleaved woodland specialists
    Fragmented networks concentrated within the areas of significant ancient and semi-natural woodland.
  • Map showing dispersal limited (1 km) woodland generalists
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    Dispersal limited (1 km) woodland generalists
    Partially fragmented by intensively managed farmland (improved pasture and arable), residual connectivity often maintained by shelterbelts.
  • Map showing mobile (5 km) woodland generalists
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    Mobile (5 km) woodland generalists
    Majority of the county is connected within a large network, possibility of fragmentation by motorways M8 and M90.
  • There are three Core Ancient Woodland Areas (CAWA) within West Lothian.  In each, there is recent evidence of high woodland biodiversity on the basis of the occurrence of ancient woodland plant indicators.   In developing a Forest Habitat Network strategy for the county, it will be important to secure and expand this habitat, to conserve and protect the biodiversity.
  • Ancient semi-natural woodland habitat is a present day refugium for woodland species in the county.  It holds the biodiversity resourse to populate high quality woodland habitats in the future.
  • Within each of the CAWA, the generic focal species analysis has shown where to concentrate woodland expansion to build large core woodland areas, and expand new corridors to link high biodiversity patches in the landscape.
  • Much of the county is suitable for the expansion of lowland mixed broadleaved woodlands. Richer soils on marine clays will be suitable for ash and alder woodlands. Sandier texture soils will be better suited to oak dominant communities. The wetter climate and soils of the upland fringe will be more suited to wet birch woodlands.  This can only be a broad recommendation as the site quality is best judged by site survey.
  • The Local Plan for development intersects a number of key areas where woodland expansion for developing forest habitat networks is essential.  For a few of these sites the conflict could be resolved by incorporating woodland into the development plans.
  • However this will only be an effective measure for woodland specialists, if new woodland blocks are of sufficient size (150 m minimum width) to develop core woodland conditions.  This will require a minimum of 50 m width for core woodland conditions, surrounded on each side by a minimum 50 m (two tree heights) of woodland edge habitat.

For further information contact:

Duncan Ray
Forest Research
Northern Research Station
Midlothian EH25 9SY

Tel: 0131 445 6980
Fax: 0131 445 5124
Email: duncan.ray@forestry.gsi.gov.uk


What's of interest

The 'Development of Forest Habitat Network Strategy in West Lothian' report was funded by:
Scottish Natural Heritage

Steering group:
West Lothian Local Biodiversity Action Plan (LBAP) group.

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