Failure to replace harvested trees threatens economy

The failure to restock risks the long-term future of the sector, warned the Forestry Commission. Picture: Neil Hanna
The failure to restock risks the long-term future of the sector, warned the Forestry Commission. Picture: Neil Hanna
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Great Britain is losing its productive forest resource – because more trees are being cut down than are being planted.

A report published by the Forestry Commission yesterday highlighted that for every 100 hectares of coniferous woodland harvested in 2006, only half had been restocked with productive conifer species.

The report prompted the forestry sector body Confor to warn that the failure to restock, combined with a historically low level of new planting, threatened the longer term future of the forestry and timber sectors.

READ MORE: Don’t be sheepish about integrated forestry plans

Stating that the industry supported more than 40,000 jobs and contributed £1.7 billion annually to the UK economy, the body’s technical director, Andrew Heald said: “A reduction in area is to be expected as 20th century plantations are replaced by more diverse, modern, multi-purpose forests – but the scale of these losses presents a serious risk to the future of one of the UK’s few sustainable and low-carbon industries.”

He said while the report showed some of the harvested forest was being replanted with broadleaf species, large areas were being left unplanted for long periods, reducing future supplies.

Heald said that the failure to replant had long-term implications – as the UK was the world’s third-largest net importer of timber and wood products.

He also pointed out that while there had been some recovery in plantings, any downturn could threaten the reputation which the UK had for its world-class forestry sector.

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