Two reports published by the Forestry Commission today (30 April) provide forecasts of the availability of softwood and hardwood timber from British forests over the next 50 years.
These reports extend the 25-year forecasts published in 2011, and make specific presumptions about the extent and nature of replanting that will occur if and when existing forests are harvested.
The forecasts are important aids to the development of forestry policy and to forest, woodland and infrastructure planning and management by the forestry and timber industries, government and local authorities as well as biodiversity, wildlife and environmental interests.
They work off a baseline of the amount of timber which was standing in British forests and woodlands in 2012, as well as what species and ages the trees were.
They then present a range of different forecasts of how much timber of different types will be available, and when and where, under a variety of different harvesting and replanting scenarios over the next 50 years
Crucially, the reports flag both opportunities and challenges for the sector, including how to realise the potential increase in timber production whilst avoiding the worst of potentially damaging peaks and troughs caused, in large part, by planting history. Peter Weston, Head of Inventory and Forecasting for the Forestry Commission, explained,
“We have produced 50-year forecasts for the first time in response to demand from the sector for a view on how current timber resources might evolve over the medium term. Previous softwood forecasts predicted rising availability over the next 20 years, followed by a decline, but the scale and duration of that potential decline was not understood.
“Being able to understand and illustrate the impact of different scenarios on resources over the medium term is an essential part of planning for many different interests, including industry development, biodiversity and climate change.
”These reports should not be seen as ‘production forecasts’: they are not a prediction. However, they are an important part of ongoing work between the Forestry Commission and the wider forest sector to look forward and develop policies and practices that will secure sustainable management of British forests over the long term.”
The reports, the ‘50-Year Forecast of Softwood Availability’ and the ‘50-Year Forecast of Hardwood Availability’ for Great Britain are two in a series of outputs for the National Forest Inventory (NFI). They are available to download from the NFI pages of the Forestry Commission website at http://www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/INFD-8rbp8t.