FARMERS ARE increasingly looking for ways to diversify their businesses. Although forestry and agriculture have been viewed as competing land uses, forestry can be a good option for some areas of land and could be integrated into grazing or arable systems.

Trees are going to become a more prominent feature of our environment and incorporating woodland into agricultural enterprises as part of productive landscapes will be vital to achieving the ambition of increasing forest cover in Scotland from 18% (in 2018) to 21% by 2032.

There are grants available from the Scottish Government which support both woodland creation and maintenance.

As well as the sale of timber, woodland creation can also generate income from the sale of voluntary carbon credits through schemes such as the Woodland Carbon Code. A 2017 report estimated carbon credit income of £400 per hectare for an upland conifer plantation using a conservative carbon price of £3 per tonne of carbon.

However, to meet Scottish Government targets for forest cover, trees will also need to be planted on more productive areas. This may include planting along riverbanks, creating shelter belts and increasing agroforestry.

Forestry on more productive land has a number of benefits that contribute to landscape resilience. For example, shelterbelts reduce wind speed, and so can improve livestock welfare and productivity by limiting cold stress, potentially reducing feed costs, and provide shade in hot weather.

Shelterbelts can help increase crop yield by reducing soil erosion and preventing nutrient run-off. Biodiversity can be increased, particularly if forested areas are unfenced as the trees provide wildlife corridors, allowing animals to move more freely across the landscape.

They also create habitat for small mammals, birds and insects, including pollinating species. Biodiverse landscapes are more robust, productive and enhance the ecosystem services that we rely on.

As well as the carbon sequestration accumulated in the trees and forest soils, harvested wood products can be used to mitigate climate change by replacing fossil fuels and greenhouse gas-intensive materials (known as substitution). For example, timber-framed buildings have ~20% lower embodied emissions than an equivalent masonry structure, and ~60% lower than concrete. Equally, timber-framed structures store 50% more carbon than masonry and 400% more than concrete structures.

However, it is important to get ‘the right tree in the right place’. This might mean considering several things: what would the alternative land-use be (including agricultural)? Is the area providing habitat for plant, animal or insect species which are vulnerable or protected? Are there other historical or cultural considerations? What is the purpose of the trees (shelter / commercial / energy crop)?

The Scottish Government has published guidance for local authorities on planning for woodland and forestry expansion.

I would like to thank Dr Mike Perks (Forest Research) for his comments and advice on the accompanying factsheet: “What are the impacts on greenhouse gas emissions and soil carbon of forestry on organic soils?”

(The factsheet that accompanies this blog, entitled: ‘What are the climate impacts of forestry on shallow peat soils?’ is available at: )