Figures released today show Scotland has reached almost 80% of the annual forest creation target, despite the main planting season being hit hard by a series of winter storms.
Despite the unexpected challenge, a total of 10,480ha of new forest has been created in Scotland, 42% of which is native species.
This means that the Bute House Accord, which set the target of creating over 4,000 ha of native forest, has been achieved with 4,360 ha completed.
The overall forest creation target, which forms part of Scotland’s climate change plans, has been raised to 13,500ha for 2021/22.
Scottish Forestry had approved enough forest creation schemes to meet the new target, but parts of the forestry sector had to divert resources from planting to salvage the millions of trees downed in the storms.
Commenting on the new figures, Environment Minister Mairi McAllan said: “Over the past four years Scotland has steadily created over 10,000ha of new forest each year.
“This was achieved during the challenges caused by Brexit, the global Covid pandemic and the worst winter storms in over 10 years.
“While it’s disappointing that we didn’t meet this year’s target, Mother Nature has taught us a salutary lesson in the power of weather and reminded us of the challenges of climate change.
“Even now, storm clean-up operations continue, so it’s no surprise they’ve had an effect on tree-planting operations.
“It’s good news that we have comfortably met our native forests target and that Scotland is punching above its weight by creating more than three-quarters of all new forests in the UK.
“The future also looks very encouraging as there is very good demand for woodlot creation projects in the pipeline.
“Scottish Forestry is fast-tracking applications for forest creation schemes and is already working on around 13,000ha of new projects.”
Storm Arwen damaged 8,000 ha of wood this winter, the equivalent of around 16 million trees, requiring the recovery of millions of tonnes of wood.
Scottish Forestry supported the forestry sector through the winter storms by reallocating staff resources and speeding up the processing of documents needed to manage the aftermath of the storms.
Their data shows that the majority of the shortfall to the annual target was in areas of Grampian, southern Scotland and Perthshire, which were hardest hit by the storms.
In other parts of the UK, England created 2260 ha of new forest, Wales 580 ha and Northern Ireland 540 ha.