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Soils and the Woodland Carbon Code


The Woodland Carbon Code is the voluntary standard for UK woodland creation projects where claims are made about the carbon dioxide they sequester. Research is still ongoing to fully understand the changes to soil carbon as a result of land-use change to forestry and forest management activities.

Research objectives

We are working to ensure that soil carbon emissions associated with the woodland creation project are quantified and that any soil carbon sequestration associated with the woodland creation project is accurately accounted for.

Results so far

Our projects which are supporting the Woodland Carbon Code include:

Further research in the next 2-3 years will allow us to develop more reliable figures for rates of soil carbon accumulation. Results of this research will be used in the next Woodland Carbon Code update on soil carbon. Projects will be able to update their soil carbon estimates at the first verification, based on this research and update.

Future Developments

  • Reviewing results from all ongoing afforestation projects in the UK to provide better quantification of the C sequestration potential of forest soils to be accounted for in the Woodland Carbon Code’s overall GHG mitigation potential.
  • We will develop a soil assessment protocol which, through field survey, will aid the identification of soil type as well as quick estimation of soil carbon content based on main soil type and humus type.




Dr Elena Vanguelova

Funders and partners

This approach is being developed with the support of a group of soil experts from across the UK, including researchers from The James Hutton Institute, University of Aberdeen and University of Edinburgh.

Forestry Commission policy

At the core of the Government's policy on sustainable forest management is the need to safeguard soil and water resources. Human actions, from local scale forest operations to international scale climate change and air pollution may compromise forest soil sustainability with consequential impacts on the freshwater environment. Poorly planned and managed forests can severely degrade soil and water resources, making forests more vulnerable to climate change. Good management, in contrast, seeks to maintain and enhance the natural protective functions of forests and the benefits they provide for society, including carbon sequestration, clean water and reduced flood risk. The overall objective of this programme is to evaluate through measuring, modelling and mapping the impacts of forests, woodlands and management practices on soil and water resources under a changing climate and changing pollutant emissions. It also aims to quantify the benefits of woodland creation for soil, water and flood management and evaluate the role of woodland in integrated catchment management. The findings will improve our understanding of the nature of these impacts and be used to help develop practices and guide future policy to secure the soil and water services that underpin the multiple benefits provided by forests.

Soil sustainability
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