This report provides a summary account of the present extent, distribution, composition and condition of the native woodlands in the Highlands. The results are based on a review of all available survey information and show that the native woodland resource in the Highlands is substantially greater than has been previously recognised.
The overall area of native woodland is 210,754 hectares. This consists of equal proportions of natural and planted origin native woodland. There is a minimum of 104,876 hectares of natural origin native woodland. This is a 35% increase in the area recorded by the only previous review in 1987 and there are clear indications that the full extent of these native woodlands is still significantly under-recorded.
The most common tree species in natural origin native woodlands is birch, followed by Scots pine and then oak. The distribution of these native woodlands is particularly concentrated in some Highland districts but, throughout the Highlands, most are in poor condition with little evidence of constructive management.
There are 106,320 hectares of planted origin native woodland. Nearly all of this consists of Scots pine managed in planted forests. The distribution of planted origin pine is very similar to that of natural origin pine and is concentrated in the eastern and central Highlands.
The overall native woodland resource in the Highlands represents 35% of the total woodland area in the region. This follows a progressive decline in the proportion of native woodlands since the beginning of this century when most woodlands in the Highlands were composed of native species.
However, analysis of recent trends shows both a major reduction in native woodland losses and a steep increase in the natural regeneration and planting of native species. Forestry Commission statistics for the Woodland Grant Scheme show that native species have accounted for the majority of the new woodland established in the Highlands during recent years.