I don’t know about you, but I love learning facts and understanding more about our forests and woodlands.
These natural areas are fascinating, magical and incredibly important.
That’s why we’ve put together a list of 75 wonderful woodland facts just for you!
75 Woodland and Forest Facts
- Woodlands are defined as small forests with a lower total density of trees.
- Just 2% of the UK’s landmass is covered in ancient woodland.
- Trees in forests and woodlands can communicate with each other via an intricate underground fungal network, known as the Wood Wide Web.
- The UK’s woods are home to almost half of all bluebells in the entire world.
- Woodlands are often transition zones between grasslands, forests and deserts.
- Woods in the UK are structured into four main layers: From the top going down you have the canopy, understory, shrub layer and the ground layer.
- Galloway Forest in Scotland is the UK’s largest forest at 297 square miles.
- The Woodland Trust owns and takes care of over 1,000 woods and forests across the UK (they are all completely free to visit!)
- Forests cover around 4 billion hectares or 31% of the Earth’s total land surface.
- Only 13% of the United Kingdom is covered in woods and forests. This is around 3.23 million hectares.
- Of the four UK countries, Scotland has 19% total tree cover, Wales 15%, England 10% and Northern Ireland 9% tree cover.
- Organisations such as Friends of the Earth and Rewilding Britain are campaigning to double woodland cover – from 13% to 26% – by 2030.
- Since 1998, it’s said that woodland area in the UK has risen by 300,000 hectares. This is roughly a 11% increase in total woodland.
- The Woodland Trust state that we need to at least quadruple the current rate of woodland creation.
- 13,300 hectares of new woodland were created in the UK in 2020-21 – 79% of this total new tree planting took place in Scotland.
- In 2020-21, England planted just 2,180 of new woodland, less than half of its 5,000-hectare target.
- New tree planting in the UK has slowed down by almost half from 1976 to 2021.
- By 2024, this English governement wants to plant 7,000 hectares of new woodland.
- New planted woodland in the UK comes mainly in the form of conifers, with the most popular species including Sitka spruce, Scots pine, Larches and Douglas Fir. The majority of the rest were broadleaf trees, including Oak, Beech, Birch and Ash.
- In 2020, the UK lost 4.15 thousand hectares (kha) of natural forest.
- Only 3.3% of agricultural land is under sustainable agroforestry, which incorporates trees into the land.
- Across the European Union, around 40% of the land is covered by trees.
- Sweden has an estimated tree cover of 69%.
- Finland has an even bigger estimated tree cover of 74%!
- The Committee on Climate Change says that the UK needs the equivalent of 30,000 hectares of new woodland every year for the next three decades if we are to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
- 30,000 hectares works out at roughly 50 million trees per year (1.5 billion trees in total!) and would take the UK total tree cover up to 17%.
- There are two main ways for increasing tree cover – tree planting (human-led) and natural regeneration (nature-led)
- Not all rainforests are tropical – we actually have rainforests in the UK known as temperate rainforests.
- In 2017, a new contemporary Charter for Trees, Woods and People was launched for the UK.
- Just over two thirds (69%) of respondents to the UK Public Opinion of Forestry Survey 2021 had visited forests or woodlands in the last few years. Of those, 36% reported an increase in the number of visits in the last 12 months.
- Woodlands grade into shrub land in drier conditions or in the early stages of plant succession.
- Forests are big carbon sinks. This means they store massive amounts of carbon and afford other important ecosystem services upon which life on Earth depends.
- Tree cover (and the root system below) improves soil health by limiting erosion and increasing the amount of soil nutrients.
- More carbon in the soil benefits all other life forms.
- Woodlands support wildlife. This is because trees are known as umbrella species in an ecosystem. Their trunks, roots, branches and canopies support huge amounts of biodiversity and wildlife.
- Forests help to stabilise temperatures and environments, increase climate resilience and protect communities from less extreme weather events.
- Forests help reduce flood risk. Trees and their accompanying soil systems soak up an unbelievable amount of water compared what they are often replaced with – concrete and tarmac.
- Woodlands provide all sorts of food and materials over the long term when left to do what they do or managed in a sustainable manner.
- Humankind is responsible for the majority of forest loss on Earth.
- The biggest drivers of deforestation are livestock and agriculture production as well as timber logging and forest fires.
- China and Rwanda, are currently rewilding forests to restore the ecosystem’s natural functions.
- The world continues to lose huge areas of forest each year – over 26 million hectares of forest was destroyed across the world in 2019.
- In 2020, 12 million hectares of tropical forest was chopped down.
- Since 1990, it’s estimated that 420 million hectares of forest have been cut down.
- Forests are fortunately recovering in some countries, in light of a variety of rewilding and re-planting initiatives.
- Research has proven that some of the planet’s best protected forests are those that are in fact inhabited by indigenous peoples.
- The biggest causes of deforestation in the tropics is agriculture, including cattle ranching, palm oil production, road construction and logging.
- One-eighth of the planet’s forests are managed for biodiversity conservation.
- Humans are worsening outbreaks of fire via forest degradation and intentional fire-setting, which exacerbates climate change in places where forests don’t typically burn, like the Amazon.
- According to the UN, about 13% of the planet’s forests, or 5.24 million sq km, are managed primarily for biodiversity conservation.
- Injured patients with a view of greenery and wildlife from their windows have been shown to recover faster than those without.
- The term ancient woodland is used in British nature conservation to refer to any wooded land that has existed since 1600, and often for thousands of years, since the last Ice Age.
- The taiga forest, or boreal forest, is the world’s largest land biome.
- The taiga forest stretches across the high northern latitudes and contains coniferous tree species, including pines, spruces and larches.
- Woodlands that border desert ecosystems are sometimes called xeric woodlands (xeric means dry).
- The succulent woodlands on the island of Madagascar, located off the southeast coast of Africa, are xeric woodlands.
- Woodlands that lead to grasslands are often lower in tree density.
- Ethiopian woodlands are extremely populated (highly dense) and contain some of the best agricultural land in the country.
- Wood products imported into the UK in 2020 were valued at £7.5 billion and included 7.2 million cubic metres of sawnwood, 3.3 million cubic metres of wood-based panels, 9.1 million tonnes of wood pellets, and 4.4 million tonnes of paper.
- The entirety of native woodland located within Great Britain is estimated to be around 1.51 million hectares (making up 49% of all woodland in Great Britain).
- Woodland is a low-density forest with plenty of sunlight and limited shade.
- Many studies have shown that forests and natural greenery increase wellbeing, feelings of happiness, decrease stress and make us feel calmer. Spending time in woods and forests makes us happier!
- Woodlands have an understory of shrubs and herbaceous plants including grasses.
- Higher densities and areas of trees, with largely closed canopy, and nearly continuous shade are often called forests.
- It is estimated that in the year 1086, around 15% of Britain’s landmass was covered in forest and woodland.
- Although the UK’s tree population is now heading in the right direction, back to the 15% level last seen a thousand years ago, we’re still lagging far behind the European average of 40% coverage.
- In early 2015, after heavy winter storms, a prehistoric forest of trees was discovered on the seabed off the Norfolk coast. Oak trees with branches measuring up to 8 meters are believed to be the remnants of a huge forest that existed some 10,000 years ago.
- Plants and trees are effectively the lungs of the earth, capturing carbon and replenishing the Earth’s oxygen supply.
- In 1919, the Forestry Commission was established and tasked with the job of replenishing depleted woodlands and forests.
- Initiatives to curb illegal logging, set up huge wildlife reserves and parks, and actively plant more trees are becoming more popular across the globe.
- Science is fast proving that the creation and disappearance of huge forests throughout history are also part of the Earth’s natural life cycle.
- Woodland in Australia is officially categorised as an area that has between 10 and 30% of tree cover – anything more than that is termed a forest.
- Some of the giant sequoia and bristlecone pine trees in the Californian woods have been growing for over 4,000 years.
- In fact, the oldest tree in the world is thought to be a bristlecone pine tree nicknamed Methuselah – approximately 4,852 years old.
- Woodlands are said to be the places where folk tales, myths, and legends originated in Europe. These enchanted spaces inspired stories like Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, and Beauty and the Beast.
There you have it, our 75 wonderful woodland facts! As you can see, the list could easily go on and on (and it does…).
It’s great to know that there are many more like minded people out there, who care about living sustainably and protecting our natural world. Together we can certainly make a difference, and awareness is always going to be the first step.
Why are woodlands and forests important?
Woodlands and forests are the lungs of our planet.
All trees absorb carbon dioxide in, which they use to power photosynthesis, and release oxygen out.
Without them, life on Earth would certainly not be the same. You certainly wouldn’t be reading this blog post, that’s for sure.
As you know, many forests and woodlands across the globe are being decimated through deforestation and logging.
This needs to change as forests bring major benefits the world over.
Forests and woodlands are important for two main reasons:
- Combating climate change
- Improving biodiversity
1. Combating Climate Change
There are more and more studies taking place each year that reveal just how beneficial our forests and woodland truly are. As stated by an independent report – Combating Climate Change (a role for UK forests):
“Woodland provides a number of highly important buffering effects against climate change, and also enhances resilience within a number of ecosystems.”
Trees also rely on taking in carbon dioxide. For this reason, woodlands are naturally brilliant at soaking up huge amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere.
Rewilding initiatives, such as those from Rewilding Britain, and tree planting drives are often held in order to reduce carbon emissions for our society and are becoming a common way for companies to offset their emissions.
For example, this website uses Ecologi to offset our emissions.
2. Improving Biodiversity
In natural woodland environments, there’s usually a varying mix of tree species. This is great as different tree types and different age trees are beneficial to a variety of other animals and plants.
For example, as trees grow older and larger and woodlands become denser, less light falls on the floor, which in turn affects what types of plants will thrive.
The greater the variety of trees in a woodland, the better it is for biodiversity.
It’s for this reason why human planted forests of just one tree species, to produce materials like timber, rubber and palm oil, won’t have a positive impact on biodiversity.
It’s unnatural for large concentrations of the same aged species i.e. mono-cultures to grow together. Some industries are starting to realise this.
Variety above ground also helps biodiversity and soil health underground. And we absolutely need high quality soil for the world and it’s life to thrive.
The definition of a woodland
“A woodland can be defined as a small forest with a lower density of trees; which form open habitats with ample sunlight and reduced shade”
Although woodland is often referred to as a ‘small forest’, the greatest difference between the two is found in the density of trees, alongside the size of the area that they each cover.
Generally speaking, forests cover larger land masses, with larger populations of trees. Whereas woodland has a lower volume of trees set within a smaller land mass.
When there is a lower volume of trees, the creation of open habitats with more sunlight and less shade can influence the growth of animal and plant life on the woodland floor.
The more light that reaches the ground affects the type of plant life that can grow in woodlands. Some common species can include the likes of mosses, ferns, grasses, lichens, shrubs, and flowering herbs.
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Ben is the Creator and Editor of Tiny Eco Home Life. I write and publish information about more sustainable, environmentally friendly living in and around the home.
Alongside this website, I love spending time in the natural world, living a simple life and spending time with my young family (Murphy the dog!) I round up my thoughts and recent blogs on the Eco Life Newsletter.