International Day of Forests: Wales’ contribution to forest restoration

This Sunday (21 March) is International Day of Forests, a day dedicated to celebrating and raising awareness about the importance of different types of forests and the many benefits that they offer.

This year’s theme celebrates ‘Forest restoration: a path to recovery and well-being’.  Our woodlands in Wales play a vital role in our environment and communities, and the Covid pandemic has highlighted their restorative role in supporting mental and physical health and well-being.  There’s never been a more important time to look after them and ensure that they are managed sustainably to aid Wales’ Green Recovery and respond to the climate and nature emergencies we’re facing.

To mark the occasion, #TeamNRW’s Greg Jones, Abi Beath and Melanie Meaden from our forestry and biodiversity teams tell us about some of the work that’s involved in managing, restoring and caring for our woodlands.  

Woodlands in Wales

In Wales, we have a diverse mix of woodlands including conifer forests, ancient woodlands and wood-pasture. These are managed to deliver a wide range of benefits – from helping us to tackle climate change by locking up carbon, to providing valuable habitats for plants and wildlife, providing outdoor recreational spaces for people to enjoy, generating a supply of timber and supporting employment and rural livelihoods.  More information is provided in our recently published State of Natural Resources report.

At NRW we are responsible for managing the Welsh Government Woodland Estate (WGWE) (approximately 123,000 hectares), and we must ensure these woodlands are managed sustainably so they are preserved and restored for future generations.  In mid Wales, we manage the largest area of productive forest in Wales, providing 380,000 cubic metres of timber every year to Wales’ wood processing industry (that’s almost 40% of the timber originating from the WGWE).

Restoring and restocking

Management of the WGWE requires felling and restocking (planting with new tree seedlings) to ensure that it remains woodland for future generations. Managing the WGWE requires a careful balancing act and there are number of challenges we face.  

One of these challenges is tackling pests and diseases, such as ash dieback and larch disease. Larch disease in particular has infected approximately 6.7 million larch trees across the whole of Wales and has had a dramatic impact on our woodlands.

Felling to remove infected trees has taken its toll on the visual, landscape and amenity aspects of woodlands but it has created positive opportunities for restoration and restructuring.  It has allowed us to restock woodlands with a wider mixture of species to improve their resilience to future pests and diseases and climate change.  Last year we restocked 1,700 hectares of woodlands across Wales, a proportion of which was part of the restoration process after infected tree clearance.

We are also working to restore Plantations on Ancient Woodland Sites (PAWS).  PAWS are former ancient semi-natural woodlands that have been partially or completely replanted with native or non-native species.  The challenge is to restore these woodlands to a more natural state, gradually removing the conifers and restoring back to native broad-leaves. Our work in Wentwood forest, near Newport, is a good example of this.

Creating a more resilient environment for future generations

By managing and restoring our woodlands, we improve the resilience of our environment, but we also contribute to the resilience of the people and communities of Wales.  Woodlands are great settings for play, education and learning, outdoor pursuits, community activities and enterprise as well as places to pursue art, relaxation and connect us with our landscape and heritage.  Spending time outdoors, in woodlands, can have restorative effects on people’s health and well-being, which helps to create a healthier and happier society.  You can find out more about our work to reconnect people and places on our website.

Find out more about International Day of Forests on the United Nations  website

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