Examination of Witnesses (Questions 164
WEDNESDAY 13 JANUARY 2010
Mr Mark Broadmeadow, Mr Pat Snowdon, Mr Mike Townsend
and Mr Richard Smithers
Good morning. Welcome. Thank you for making it through this very
unpleasant weather. Mr Broadmeadow is on his way and I think will
be with us in about 15 minutes but we will make a start. Just
formally, I think you have in front of you a list of interests
that have been declared by the Committee. This is a formal evidence-taking
session of the Sub-Committee and a full shorthand note is going
to be taken. Of course that will be on the public record and in
printed form on our parliamentary website. We will send you a
copy of the transcript and you will be able to revise minor points
if you have made minor errors. The session is being recorded and
it will be webcast live and accessible on the parliamentary website.
Perhaps we could start by each of you stating your names for the
Mr Townsend: I am Mike Townsend from the Woodland
Mr Smithers: Richard Smithers from the Woodland
Mr Snowdon: Pat Snowdon from the Forestry Commission.
On a general note, could you just give us some sense of what threats
are posed generally to forestry by climate change and also what
advantages forestry could take? What chances are there for better
times? How do these threats and opportunities relate to the wider
land management issues?
Mr Snowdon: My Lord Chairman, can I ask that
the Woodland Trust speak first and then we will of course when
Mr Broadmeadow is here. He is our foremost expert on this so it
would be good if he was present.
Mr Townsend: In terms of threat, extreme weather
events in particular we feel are a problem for forestry, particularly
increasing droughts, increasing storms and disrupted weather patterns
and linked to that are issues around changes in the pest and disease
regime of forests. I think we are already seeing that in terms
of new pests arriving on our shores. Linked with that is the need
for an increase in biosecurity measures around forestry in particular.
From our point of view and our interest in woodland wildlife and
biodiversity, the nature of our forest landscape in the UK, which
is relatively low compared to the rest of Europe and highly fragmented,
causes us particular concerns as the climate changes and as species
have that need to move through the landscape to find new climate
space. I think we have particular problems in the UK linked to
low woodland cover and a fragmented landscape. In terms of the
advantages or the opportunities linked to forestry and to climate
change, I think there are a lot of roles for trees and for woods
in helping both agricultural adaptation and the adaptation for
biodiversity more generally. I think that is through a more intimate
integration of trees into productive agricultural landscapes but
also into those places that are less productive, where the opportunities
for a greater coverage of woodland may be possible. I think we
have increasingly to look to opportunities to support productive
landscapes, both through adaptation of agriculture but also through
provision of ecosystem services.
Mr Broadmeadow joined the meeting
That is perfect timing. Mr Broadmeadow, welcome.
Mr Broadmeadow: Thank you and apologies for
Thank you for making it. We have just started and asked the first
question which is basically about the threats to forestry from
climate change but also about the opportunities. The Woodland
Trust went first and perhaps, if you are ready, you could continue?
Mr Broadmeadow: Beginning with the threats,
I think they will have a very regional basis and the most prevalent
threats in the UK will be in the south and east of the country,
where the impacts of drought are likely to become more and more
important. In the north and west of the country, initially, tree
growth may well increase as a result of rising CO2 levels, increased
warmth and also longer growing seasons. In the north and west
with the heavier winter rainfall, there may be increased waterlogging
and potentially more endemic windthrow. As time goes on, I think
the impacts will become more and more far-reaching. For native
woodland communities, the range of some native species may change
and certainly we will see, towards the end of the century, a change
in community structure of our native woodlands. There will also
be opportunities, and I think the fact that woodland has a role
in producing timbera low carbon, sustainable and renewable
material both as a source of energy and in constructionwill
be a real opportunity for forestry in the UK. That is particularly
the case because forestry is probably going to be impacted less
severely in the UK than in some other parts of Europe and indeed
the world. We should also see woodland creation and forestry in
general as an important component of the land manager's toolkit
to reduce soil erosion, to alleviate flooding and to improve water
quality. I do believe there are opportunities out there that we
need to address. The one threat that I think is outstanding is
the threat of pests and diseases. Those are clearly a concern
and will be a concern as time goes on.
Q168 Earl of Arran:
You mentioned disease, which I quite understand. Specifically,
Sudden Oak Death started off in Cornwall with the rhododendrons
and is now affecting the horse chestnut which has the potential,
I think I am right in saying, to affect many other species as
well. How seriously do you rate this? Is it spreading up country?
Mr Broadmeadow: It is not spreading particularly
quickly but within the south west peninsula the causal agent,
phytophthora ramorum, is of real concern and also the species
phytophthora kernoviae. That is not a particular area of
expertise of mine but that is a real area of concern and recently
there has been movement onto larch. That is an outbreak that the
Forestry Commission is addressing as we speak.
Mr Snowdon: We have looked in the past at the
economic impact of different diseases and we are now going to
be looking at the larch issue which Mark has just referred to.
By economic impact, I mean the effects on many of the social and
environmental benefits which economists place values on, including
the eco-system services which trees provide, as well as any effects
on the wood and timber sector of the economy.
Q169 Earl of Arran:
If Dutch elm disease were to go to other species, it would be
very serious, would it not?
Mr Broadmeadow: Yes. That has a different vector.
That is, as far as I am aware,
not an immediate concern, but one of the diseases affecting the
horse chestnut is bacterial rather than most plant diseases which
are fungal in nature, so that is a concern, as is another bacterial
disease that is emerging on oak. Pests and diseases do appear
to be becoming more prevalent.
Q170 Earl of Caithness:
Can I just change the subject very quickly, because I think it
would be helpful for me and perhaps to get it on the record? A
quick question for the Forestry Commission: how much land do you
manage and what about your relations within the UK given that
there is devolution? For the Woodland Trust, given that you have
1,000 sites, how many of those are commercial and profit-making?
Mr Snowdon: The estate in Scotland is in excess
of 600,000 hectares and in England it is about 250,000. I do not
have the exact figure for Wales. In England, about 18 per cent
of the woodland cover is managed by the Forestry Commission. In
Scotland, it is closer to a third or more. You are right to refer
to devolution. We have set up our own strategy group within the
Commission which is chaired by our Director General to ensure
that we take a co-ordinated approach to climate change work across
the three countries and that we have cohesion and sharing of information.
Obviously there is policy independence between the three countries,
but we think it is very important that the organisation takes
a strategic approach to this issue.
Mr Townsend: In terms of the Woodland Trust
estate, we have 1,000 properties, as you say, spread over about
20,000 hectares. About a quarter of our estate is in one property
in Scotland. Many of our sites are quite small, the majority under
five hectares. Our primary objectives as an organisation relate
to conservation of biodiversity and provision of public access
and they are managed with that in mind. We do harvest timber from
a number of our estates, generally the larger ones, and in that
way we generate some commercial income, but most of our estate
is focused around delivering public access and issues around biodiversity.
Q171 Earl of Caithness:
You are basically an amenity?
Mr Townsend: Fundamentally amenity-based.
Q172 Viscount Brookeborough:
You did not mention Northern Ireland and I live in Northern Ireland.
What is your relationship with Northern Ireland, with our Forest
Mr Snowdon: We do work together with them a
lot and we act on their behalf in some cases in terms of our research
and other activity.
Q173 Viscount Brookeborough:
Are they a bit more independent of you?
Mr Snowdon: They are a little more independent,
Q174 Viscount Brookeborough:
Is this because there is something which stops you being so involved
or is this because they wish to be independent or simply do not
Mr Snowdon: I think it is the fact that they
are part of the Agriculture and Rural Development Department in
Northern Ireland. We are all looking at very similar issues and
we generally work very closely together.
Mr Broadmeadow: The UK forestry standard, which
is the definition of sustainable forest management in the UK,
is a UK document rather than GB. In response to the earlier question,
the only point I would add is that not all of the Forestry Commission
estate is woodland. For example, in England of the 258,000 hectares
only 202,000 is woodland.
Q175 Lord Lewis of Newnham:
We are talking about management essentially of forestation. We
received a paper from the Confederation of Forest Industries who
made a statement that in fact only about half of the forest area
is managed, the rest of it is unmanaged. What happens in this
particular situation? Who is responsible for this? If we are talking
about things like diseases and things like this, they can very
often start by being very localised and, if it is in an area that
is being unmanaged, what happens? Do they just naturally spread
Mr Broadmeadow: In terms of not being managed,
this may well be in terms of not being managed for timber production.
They may be being managed for biodiversity reasons for example.
They may be being managed for game cover, but certainly in England
this is an issue that the Forestry Commission are looking to address
to increase the level of management, because there is some evidence
that there has been a decline in habitat quality because of the
lack of management, primarily in woodlands that were established
over the past 70 years and have not subsequently been managed.
That is an issue we are looking to address and we are looking
at it as a potential source of renewable energy in the form of
wood fuel. We are focusing grant aid on improving woodland condition
through woodland improvement grants through the Rural Development
Programme for England.
Mr Townsend: Part of the issue is going back
to the very fragmented nature of the forest resource, particularly
in England and Wales. It does make management quite problematic,
particularly in an agricultural landscape. I think the reason
that lack of management has arisen is very often due to practical
and commercial reasons, but it is a concern in some cases.
Q176 Viscount Ullswater:
If I can turn our attention to the tension between food production
and forestry, this is really a question initially for the Woodland
Trust. In your evidence, you state that natural habitats and resources
should not be seen as luxuries to compete against the needs of
production. I take that as being commercial production as well
as perhaps any other form of production. It notes also in paragraph
10this is your evidencethat concerns around food
security, including the possible need to increase food production,
perhaps represent an obstacle to the adaptation of forestry to
climate change. Could you just explain how you see the woodlands
under your control as being adaptable in any sense to climate
Mr Townsend: Taking several points there, if
I may, I think the starting-point is that we completely support
the need to secure food production and indeed see an increase
in food production in years to come. That is our starting-point,
if you like. We then see that trees can perform an important role
in the adaptation of productive landscapes, either through issues
Mark has already raised to do with management of water quality
or to do with protection of crops or to do with shade and shelter
for livestock and animal welfare issues. There is a whole range
of issues where perhaps trees as opposed to woodland can be important
in helping agricultural landscapes to adapt. There is nonetheless,
we recognise, a tension there between the need for food production
and land available for forestry. I think, in very productive landscapes,
we would see the focus being on the integration of trees into
the landscape as opposed to the widespread adoption of forestry.
In less productive landscapes, there is the opportunity for more
expansive use of forestry. Again, I think we would see that being
linked through to the provision of particular services. Water
management again is a very important one but also soil conservation,
issues to do with biodiversity and generating connected landscapes.
I think, as I suggested earlier, we need to view our estate which
is relatively modest but also woods in general in terms of how
they integrate into a productive landscape and how they contribute
to it, rather than being seen as something which is an alternative
to that landscape. I suppose it is a shift in emphasis and approach
and a shift in understanding of the way trees fit into a landscape.
I think historically they would have been more integrated. I think
that integration probably has shifted over the last century, but
there are lots of good reasons why we can now see the need to
integrate trees, woods and forests more into the productive, agricultural
Q177 Viscount Ullswater:
Is there a comment the Forestry Commission would like to make?
Mr Broadmeadow: I would fully support Mike's
comments that woodland and trees should be seen as part of the
toolkit of land managers. We do not believe that there needs to
be an issue between food security and woodland creation. The UK
Low Carbon Transition Plan highlighted what an additional 10,000
hectares per year of woodland could contribute over 15 years in
terms of climate change mitigation. That is 150,000 hectares of
woodland. That is not a huge area when you consider the amount
of agricultural land. If we get it right with a well thought-out
spatial framework looking to target woodland creation (a) onto
marginal land and (b) where the environmental co-benefits can
be maximised, then there need not be a real issue. There are also
large areas of contaminated land around where woodland has been
demonstrably effective in stabilising some of those contaminants
and being a productive land use for those areas that are otherwise
not likely to be productive. If we target woodland creation well,
there need not be a conflict.
Chairman: Who should have the overall responsibility
for that? Where should the overall responsibility for that sit?
Viscount Ullswater: Who is going to pay for
Mr Broadmeadow: I think there are two issues
there. One is who should have responsibility for ensuring that
we get any woodland creation programme right. I think there is
joint responsibility between Defra, the Forestry Commission and
Natural England and the broad range of stakeholders involved with
land management and land use. As far as who should pay for it,
again the UK Low Carbon Transition Plan said that, at the current
time, public finance is not an option for a step change in woodland
creation and that Government would look to support encouraging
private funding of woodland creation.
Mr Townsend: I would agree that there is joint
responsibility across the board for delivering different elements
of woodland creation and the need for more tree cover. I also
think that there are other EU directives, particularly the Water
Framework Directive and the Floods Directive, which help to guide
where some of this might happen. I think there are a number of
things coming together and in a way this White Paper supports
that integration of those different directives and guiding documents.
Some of the groundwork is there already and it is a matter really
of how we fund it and how we move it forward.
Mr Smithers: We will come on to it I am sure,
but in terms of the Common Agricultural Policy the vast bulk of
money goes to decoupled production payments and far less to rural
development. Of the latter, only just over ten per cent goes to
forestry. In a world of climate change and given all that trees
can do for us and for agriculture, it would be nice to think that
we could somehow reach a better balance.
Q179 Earl of Arran:
Just a quick question on the timetable set out in the White Paper.
I know you are aware of the two different phases. The first one
is for preparatory groundwork to 2012 and the second one is for
a comprehensive strategy from 2013 onwards. In your view is this
too slack? Is it too slow? Is it lacking in ambition? What are
your views about this?
Mr Townsend: I would say the urgency is there
and therefore I would not call it too slack. I think there is
a degree of autonomous adaptation going on already, particularly
in agriculture, so I think the need to put a framework in place
urgently is there. There are elements, as I was suggesting earlier,
in terms of other directives and other guidance, which lay some
of the groundwork for making things happen. I think the timetable
is realistic in the sense that there are some things that we can
get on with at a relatively early stage. The one thing we should
not do is allow some of the gaps in knowledge and some of the
uncertainty around those to delay things which we can see as being
"no regrets" options, if you like. I think there are
things that can be got on with even where there is potentially
a lack of complete evidence. Our view would be that the timetable
is probably OK.
1 Note by witness:Dutch elm disease is carried
by an insect vector and has a different mode of infection to sudden
oak death as previously disclosed. Back
Note by witness: There is no current concern over Dutch
elm disease moving to other species. Back