State of the Park

Woodlands

alt=View from Snowdon Summit

Woodlands

Extent of Woodland Coverage

Wales is one of the least wooded countries in Europe with the area of woodland at 31 March 2010 estimated to be 303,500ha. This is 14.3% of the total land area compared to an EU average of 37%per cent. Natural Resources Wales (NRW), on behalf of the Welsh Government, manages 37% of the Welsh woodland which equates to 114,000 hectares. A further 190,000ha are in private ownership.

Timber from Welsh conifer woodlands is used mainly in construction, fencing and packaging.

Snowdonia National Park has a woodland cover of approximately 18%, which equates to some 38,000ha (12.5% of Welsh woodland cover). Whilst large areas of Snowdonia would once have been afforested with native broadleaf forests, human actions have reduced this over several millennia such that native woodlands now equate to approximately 5% of the National Park’s woodland cover (11,000ha).

The Ancient Woodland Inventory (AWI) identifies woodlands that have had continuous woodland cover for some centuries. Studies show that these woodlands are typically more biodiverse and of a higher nature conservation value than those developed recently or those where woodland cover on the site has been intermittent. These woodlands may also be culturally important. The new updated inventory (AWI 2011) indicates that there are around 95,000ha of ancient woodland in Wales.

  • Ancient Semi-Natural Woodland (ASNW) – broadleaf woodlands comprising mainly native tree and shrub species which are believed to have been in existence for over 400 years
  • Plantation on Ancient Woodland Sites (PAWS) – sites which are believed to have been continuously wooded for over 400 years and currently have a canopy cover of more than 50% non-native conifer tree species
  • Restored Ancient Woodland Sites (RAWS) – woodlands which are predominately broadleaves now and are believed to have been continually wooded for over 400 years. These woodlands will have gone through a phase when canopy cover was more than 50% non-native conifer tree species and now have a canopy cover of more than 50% broadleaf9
  • Ancient Woodland Site of Unknown Category (AWSU) – woodlands which may be ASNW, RAWS or PAWS. These areas are predominantly in transition and existing tree cover is described as 'shrubs', 'young trees', 'felled' or 'ground prepared for planting'.
CategoryWales (ha)Snowdonia (ha)
  Ancient woodland and site of unknown category713.45444.1
  Ancient semi natural woodland41,786.533854.37
  Plantation on ancient woodland site25,748.893033.07
  Restored Ancient woodland21,961.581986.66
  Total94,941.109,578.50

It is estimated that current carbon sequestration by trees in Wales amounts to some 1.42 Mt annually (approx. 3.8% of total carbon dioxide emissions) and the Woodland Carbon Code is helping to improve this. Wales’ status as a net sink for carbon is a result of a low incidence of land use change and a relatively young forest resource.

  Conifer  Broadleaved Total
 StemsOtherTotalStemsOtherTotal 
  GB18951340109136245534
  Wales23184114173172

Data from McKay et al, (2003) calculated assuming 50% of biomass is C; excludes fine roots and broadleaf foliage (assumed deciduous); excludes privately owned woods <2ha

Summary of carbon stocks (MtCO2) in standing tree biomass of GB and Welsh woodlands

Separate figures for the carbon stock in trees in the National Park have not been published however as a starting point a very rough approximation can be made based on two calculations, firstly the apportionment (12.5%) of the Wales total of 72 MtCO2 to Snowdonia and secondly applying the estimated figures of 300 and 500 tCO2ha-1 respectively for Sitka spruce and oak stands to the c27,000 ha of Sitka spruce plantations and c11,000 ha oak woodlands in the National Park10

Estimated Carbon stocks in the standing biomass of Snowdonia’s woodlands would be in the range of 9 – 13.6 MtCO2

Estimated components and proportions of in-forest stocks of Wales’ Forestry (MtCO2)

Wales

The diagram shows that soils, particularly the peaty gleys on which most of Snowdonia’s forests are planted account for a large majority of carbon stocks in woodlands.

This would amount to some 25.13 MtCO2 in woodland soils in Snowdonia.

The Snowdonia National Park Authority/Forestry Commission Native Woodland Accord aims to increase the area of native woodland within the National Park by 50% by 2050 and to ensure that all existing woodland is appropriately managed within the same period (Source: Snowdonia Biodiversity Action Plan).

Source: peat-executive-summary.pdf

The Snowdonia National Park Authority/Forestry Commission Native Woodland Accord aims to increase the area of native woodland within the National Park by 50% by 2050 and to ensure that all existing woodland is appropriately managed within the same period (Source: Snowdonia Biodiversity Action Plan).

9 Information sources do not identify whether broadleaf trees are native to a specific site, therefore an assumption has been made that they are native. The phrase 'restored ancient woodland' describes woodland which appears, with the use of remote sensing techniques, to have returned to a more natural condition. The inventory designation does not mean that the woodland is fully restored or that it is in good ecological condition. Active restoration work may well be essential to consolidate improvements in condition.

10 Figures derived from “Understanding the carbon and greenhouse gas balance of forests in Britain.” Forestry Commission 2012.