Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust                            DEF0021

Written evidence submitted by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust


The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust ( is a leading, independent UK wildlife conservation charity conducting scientific research into Britain’s game and wildlife to enhance the British countryside for public benefit. We use our research to providetrainingandadvice on how best toimprove thebiodiversityof the British countryside.


At the Allerton Project (, our demonstration farm in Leicestershire, we sustainably manage the woodland and operate two biomass heating systems fuelled entirely from our own lands.  In addition, our research into game management techniques and advice to landowners on game landscapes means we have been instrumental in the design of new woodlands and the management of existing ones for the enhancement of game species. 


Given our focus of expertise is the UK we have only considered the first section of questions and in particular the plans for domestic timber in tandem with other environmental goals.  We hope that the following points emphasise the importance of achieving multifunctionality from woodland/forestry sites and how this could be achieved in the context of site, management and the outcomes sought.


  1. At the moment it appears to us that the future demand for timber is related to some policy ambitions more than others.  For example, there seems limited connectivity between tree planting associated with Net Zero ambitions and demand for timber and what this might mean for planting different tree species.  The carbon marketplace is looking for quick return options resulting in the emphasis on ‘monoculture’ softwood conifer plantations. 
  2. We believe the answer is to ‘stack’ the outcomes from woodland/forestry in much the same way as we seek, through our research, to achieve this on farmland (indeed agro-forestry would be a good option in support of small-scale timber production as well as other outcomes from farmland – see point 7 below).  This means optimising multiple outcomes rather than maximising one or two.  Recreation and well-being are already accommodated (although typically non-priced) within the public and private forestry/woodland estate, although research has shown that social benefits are greatly enhanced when forests are multi-species rather than monoculture.  Multi-species plantations also reduce susceptibility to disease and pests and improve wildlife diversity.  The key therefore is to support woodland creation policies with blueprints for sustainable, multi-outcome timber production – AND management (see also point 4) – and to base these on an understanding of the ecological balances offered by monoculture and multi-species forests and where, in terms of location, each model is best suited.
  3. We consider that the focus on new plantings ignores the potential for managing existing forests more efficiently and for the extension of current stands (which is logical due to efficiencies in transport and existing infrastructure that supports the costs of thinning and extraction[1])
  4. Considering more efficient management of the existing forest estate alongside new plantings is critical to ensuring that woodland creation (to meet domestic demands) on our finite land area is balanced with other land uses.  As a result (as we have stated in our response to the Lord’s Land Use Committee inquiry) we believe that a land use strategy is required to ensure that the uses of our land area are optimised.  This includes considering our global supply chains. 
  5. Whilst we are concerned about the offshoring of our environmental footprint, we believe that in some cases, like timber, off-setting production to other countries can be acceptable if a product can be grown more sustainably there than in England i.e. ‘right tree, right place, right country’.
  6. Optimising outcomes per area of private woodland could be balanced by providing more sources of income than currently through broader environmental credits that recognise biodiversity, soil and water quality outcomes as opposed to purely carbon.
  7. We would also like to flag the potential role of agroforestry.  Agroforestry should be encouraged as part of a timber production strategy (whilst the England Trees Action Plan recognises its value and includes a commitment to its financial support the focus is mainly on biodiversity and climate resilience). Agroforestry has a range of benefits: such as bringing carbon into the farming system at times of the year that other farming methods cannot; making more efficient use of land by encouraging the utilisation of space above and below ground and across it; providing shelter, nutrition and welfare benefits for livestock; protecting soil and water courses from erosion; supporting alternative income such as game shooting during the growing phase; and, as a consequence, optimising outcomes - livestock production, game management, timber production (biomass), carbon stocks and soil health.  The GWCT is currently undertaking an agroforestry experiment at our demonstration farm, the Allerton project ( ) which is seeking to establish how to optimise these outcomes.
  8. The other aspect that agroforestry provides is the ability to combine food production (such as top fruit or nuts) and meat (cows, sheep, deer, chickens) alongside biomass for renewable energy and carbon sequestration.  Also research at the GWCT’s Allerton project is demonstrating the value of tree fodder (willow) to livestock in reducing GHG emissions and the use of anthelmintics. There is even the potential for trees to be grown in lines with arable crops in between the rows, although the distance between would need to be wide enough for a combine harvester.
  9. Climate change is obviously going to have an impact on tree growth (both in terms of increased growth from warmer, wetter winters but also risk of wildfire and restricted growth from hotter, drier summers).  This is also likely to shift the climatic envelopes in which some tree species grow such that formerly ‘native’ species are grown in more marginal areas and newer more climate resilient species predominate.  Consequently, consideration needs to be given to what mix of tree species and harvesting cycles (slightly longerterm production) might be better for climate change mitigation whilst still realising economic benefits[2].
  10. One area that receives less attention is the design of woodland.  Our research focus on woodland plantings for game has resulted in us understanding how to design a woodland that is wind resistant.  The key is the shape (gradient) of the woodland edge which in turn provides additional biodiversity.  Improving woodland design could reduce losses through windblow.
  11. There has been much talk about ‘right tree, right place’ - and rightly so.  However we remain concerned that the implications of extensive tree planting for some aspects of biodiversity have not been adequately assessed.  Guidance is now available to help land managers choose locations where environmental damage is minimised but we feel that the negative impacts on globally rare habitat (including heather moorland, lowland heath and peatlands) and waders in particular have still not been adequately addressed.  For example, woodlands and forestry harbour generalist predators (particularly foxes and crows) that can have significant impacts on waders (and other ground nesting species); these will benefit from woodland expansion.  Yet predator management is not regarded as a mitigation strategy where it is not already being undertaken (such as on grouse moors)[3] despite scientific consensus that wader breeding success is severely compromised by nest and chick predation.
  12. Increasing the amount of timber used in construction would help lock up the carbon absorbed during the growing phase and reduce the use of energy-intensive products such as concrete and steel.  Indeed the sustainable harvesting of well-managed forests for construction presents an opportunity to sequester more carbon than might be achieved by allowing the forest to mature naturally1However this requires an understanding of which species and rotations would be most useful for construction.  In the UK the main species grown for construction is sitka spruce yet in the UK given our milder conditions (than its native Pacific Northwest of North America) its growth rate is faster resulting in a lower density of wood.  Longer rotation times may provide timber with improved structural properties1.
  13. The committee has specifically asked about biomass for UK energy generation.  We are concerned that at present about 50% of the total biomass from a clearfell is waste ie. brash. Using this (where appropriate given potential environmental damage - see Forestry Commission Guidance on Site Selection for Brash Removal ( and developing better extraction methods for the brash (such as brash bailing or residue logs) would generate a more sustainable and efficient source of bioenergy than promoting policies that increase short-rotation coppice or maize which can have environmental consequences as well as converting land away from food production.



Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust

September 2022

[1] Ramage et al (2017) The wood from the trees: the use of timber in construction

[2] Körner. A matter of tree longevity Science, 355(6321) (2017), pp. 130‐131, 10.1126/science.aal 2449