Woodland natural capital accounts: ecosystem services for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, 2020

Additional information splitting down UK data in the Woodland natural capital accounts, UK: 2020 publication for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Extra data on summary ecosystem services and asset value.

This is the latest release. View previous releases

Contact:
Email Hazel Trenbirth and Adam Dutton

Release date:
11 May 2021

Next release:
To be announced

1. Main points

  • The annual value of woodland ecosystem services in England is estimated to be £1.6 billion in 2017, representing 50% of the annual value for UK woodlands as a whole.

  • Woodland accounted for 18% of Scotland’s land area in 2019, above the UK-wide figure of 13%.

  • Pollution removal by woodland in Wales is estimated to have an ecosystem services value of £100 million in 2017, representing 31% of the annual value of Welsh woodlands.

  • Carbon sequestration by woodland in Northern Ireland is estimated to have an ecosystem services value of £42 million in 2017, representing 42% of the annual value of Northern Irish woodland.

  • The annual value of timber and wood fuel, an important element on woodland ecosystem services value for Scotland, was estimated to be £165 million in 2017, representing 60% of the value of UK timber and wood fuel.

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2. Size of the area covered by woodland

This bulletin provides enhanced national breakdown for the Woodland natural capital accounts, UK: 2020 publication.

The area of UK woodlands in 2019 is 3.2 million hectares (PDF, 5.25MB). Scotland has 46% of the UK's woodlands, England has 41%, Wales has 10% and Northern Ireland has 4% (Table 1).

Land covered by woodland in the UK (XLSX, 139KB) has increased from 9% of the land area in 1980 to 13% in 2019 (Table 2).

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3. Overall quantity and value of UK woodland

The contribution woodland services provide to the economy and society are estimated to be valued at £3.3 billion in 2017 for the UK (Table 4).

Scotland has 46% of the UK's woodland area, the largest proportion among the four UK nations and 37% of the value of woodlands in the UK in terms of ecosystem services. While England has a smaller share of the UK's woodlands at 41% of woodland area, it accounts for 50% of that ecosystem's services value. This is mainly because of differences in the value of outdoor recreation. Scotland has more outdoor visits per person, but people spend less on these visits on average. In 2017, the average spend on a woodlands recreation visit in England was £1.18 compared with £0.70 in Scotland (2018 prices).

Statistics are not yet available for all ecosystem services for every year, hence the focus on 2017.

While statistics on wood fuel are not currently available by nation, these are currently being developed by Forest Research, which is the research agency of the Forestry Commission. As an interim measure, we have apportioned wood fuel figures from timber to give national figures. Additionally, flood prevention and urban woodland cooling data for Northern Ireland are not available.

Table 4 provides a partial valuation as there are potentially significant exclusions such as food and tourism.

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4. Quantity and value of woodlands – England

The value of ecosystem services in England in 2017 is estimated at £1.6 billion (2018 prices), representing 50% of the annual value of woodlands as an ecosystem in that year.

Since 2010, the most recent year (2017) is the only one with available figures for all eight ecosystem services valued. The recreation value increase in 2016 is because of an increased number of visits to, and spend in, the woodlands in that year. There were an estimated 313 million visits to woodlands in England in 2016 compared with 307 million in 2017 (Table 5). Between 2010 and 2016, there was a year-on-year increase in the number of visits to woodlands, with a slight decrease in 2017.

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5. Quantity and value of woodlands – Scotland

The value of ecosystem services is estimated to be £1.2 billion in 2017 (2018 prices) (Figure 2), with carbon sequestration representing 44% of the value.

During 2017, some 90 million visits were made to woodlands in Scotland for outdoor recreation (Table 6). The number of visits to Scottish woodlands has increased between 2010 and 2017. While the value of recreation has decreased, it is estimated in 2015 the average spend on a visit to woodlands in Scotland was £1.05 compared with £0.70 in 2017 (all 2018 prices). Scottish people are increasing the number of visits to woodlands, with the average spend being less per visit.

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6. Quantity and value of woodlands – Wales

The annual value of ecosystem services in Wales is estimated to be £320 million in 2017 (Figure 3), with pollution removal being 31% of this.

Only 2017 has all the eight ecosystem services valuation estimates. The decline in value from 2016 to 2017 (Figure 3) is a result of recreation falling, despite a similar number of visits to woodlands in Wales (Table 7). The average spend per trip fell from £2.11 in 2016 to £1.16 in 2017.

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7. Quantity and value of woodlands – Northern Ireland

The annual value of woodland ecosystem services in Northern Ireland was valued at £100 million in 2017 (Figure 4), with 42% of this being the value of carbon sequestration. This is a partial picture compared with other parts of the UK as currently no data are available for flood protection or urban woodland cooling in Northern Ireland.

In contrast to the rest of the UK, the combined quantity of timber and wood fuel produced has fallen from 2010 to 2017 (Table 8). Northern Ireland timber was 4.8% of the UK total in 2010, falling to 3.2% in 2018.

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8. Asset value of woodlands

The UK asset value of selected woodland ecosystem services was estimated to be almost £130 billion in 2017 (Table 9). England's woodlands account for 51% of this, with the woodland area in England accounting for 41% of the UK woodlands. This is as a result of the higher value of recreation in England, where the average per person spend is higher than the rest of the UK.

The carbon sequestration calculation for each country uses a slightly different valuation for Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) rate than the UK rate for future projections. Hence the sum of the four countries is higher than that for the UK.

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9. Woodland natural capital accounts, ecosystem services data

Woodland natural capital accounts: ecosystem services for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, supplementary information
Dataset | Released 11 May 2021
Physical (non-monetary) and monetary estimates of services provided by natural assets in the UK between 2010 and 2017.

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10. Glossary

Asset

Asset valuation is an estimate of the stream of services that are expected to be generated over the life of the asset. It looks at the pattern of expected future flows and the time period over which the flows of values are expected to be generated.

Ecosystem services

Ecosystem services are the flows of benefits that people gain from natural ecosystems. This includes provisioning services such as food and water; regulating services such as flood protection and pollution removal; and cultural services such as recreational and heritage.

Natural capital

Natural capital is a way of measuring and valuing the benefits that the natural world provides society. These benefits from natural resources include food, cleaning the air of pollution, sequestering carbon and cleaning fresh water.

Woodlands

Woodlands in the UK are tree-covered areas that include plantation forests, more natural forested areas, and lower density or smaller stands of trees.

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11. Measuring the data

In this release, the woodland habitat accounts are presented in three sections:

  • the size of the area covered by woodland in the four UK nations (extent account)

  • quantity and value of services supplied by the woodland ecosystem in the four UK nations (physical and monetary ecosystem service flow accounts)

  • value of woodland as an asset, which represents the stream of services expected to be provided over the lifetime of the asset (monetary asset account)

The data underpinning woodlands natural capital come from a range of sources with different timeliness and coverage. This release is based on the most recent data as at January 2020.

Data sources include:

  • Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

  • Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)

  • Economics for the Environment Consultancy (EFTEC)

  • Forest Research

  • Forestry Commission

  • Forestry England

  • Met Office

  • UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology

  • UK National Atmospheric Emissions Inventory (NAEI)

Collaboration

The Office for National Statistics natural capital accounts are produced in partnership with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

DEFRA

Methodology

Details of methodologies for woodlands can be found in Woodland natural capital accounts methodology guide, UK: 2020. Further details on the concepts and methodologies underlying the UK natural capital accounts can be found in Principles of Natural Capital Accounting.

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12. Strengths and limitations

Data quality

The ecosystems services are experimental statistics. Currently, there is no single data source for the UK for the individual ecosystem services. They are calculated from data from the four countries with different timeliness.

Ecosystems provide a diverse range of services and not all have been included in this publication, either owing to unavailability of data or the need for new methods of evaluation. We intend to continue to develop our ability to report on all services.

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Contact details for this Statistical bulletin

Hazel Trenbirth and Adam Dutton
natural.capital.team@ons.gov.uk
Telephone: +44 (0)1633 580051