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The National Forest Inventory (NFI) monitors woodland trees in Britain, yet many trees do not grow in woodland, but are found singly, in hedgerows and in parks and gardens, or as small wood features in both agricultural and urban landscapes.

These trees outside woodlands are important natural resources and make important contributions to national carbon stocks, biodiversity and natural capital.  It is important they are monitored, so they can be better managed and protected.

The Trees Outside Woodland – TOW project is an ongoing National Capital Ecosystem Assessment (NCEA) programme run by Defra and is designed to provide accurate information about the size, distribution, composition and condition of Trees Outside Woodland and how they interact with non-woodland ecosystems.

Research Objectives

  • To provide data on Trees outside Woodlands in English landscapes
  • To undertake 600 1-kilometre squared field samples per annum over 5 years
  • To map all TOW features in a National TOW GIS dataset
  • To undertake 600 1-kilometre squared samples of desk mapping of TOW features per annum over 5 years to calibrate the Trees Outside Woodland map.
  • To have collected enough data to report on key aspects of Trees Outside of woodland within 14 geographies of England.

Our involvement

The National Forest Inventory – NFI is an ongoing programme that seeks to provide accurate, up-to-date information about the size, distribution, composition and condition of the forests and woodlands in Great Britain (GB).

With the inventory of woodlands, the Forestry Commission has undertaken ‘Small Woods’ assessments since 1951 to provide statistics on the amount and composition of tree cover outside woodlands, such as those associated with smaller woods, groups of trees and lone trees.

The NCEA is the latest of these rounds of assessment, but will provide more information than its predecessors, focusing more on aspects of biodiversity and natural capital. In addition, the survey is part of a wider NCEA of all aspects of terrestrial and marine ecosystems, so all factors of our natural environment can be monitored and protected as a whole.

Funding and Partners

Forest Research

National Capital and Ecosystem Assessment Programme (NCEA) Defra 

Contact Person

Matthew Wilkinson

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