The statistics presented in the Environment chapter of this release cover:
- populations of wild birds;
- public opinion on tree health; and
- woodland fires.
Wildfires, including woodland fires, are uncontrolled vegetation fires. Although they can start naturally, the majority are caused by people, either accidentally or deliberately.
Wildfires can impact on transport network and power lines; damage property and businesses; affect tourism and recreation; and threaten people's lives. They also damage the natural and historic environment and release carbon dioxide stored in vegetation and soils which contributes to climate change.
Despite woodland wildfires making up a relatively small proportion of all wildfire incidents in the UK, their impacts can be disproportionately large and costly to society. Destructive wildfire events are predicted to increase in frequency in the UK due to increased land-use pressure and climate change.
Data sources and methodology
Populations of wild birds
Population indices for wild birds are a framework indicator for sustainable development. The data published here are based on those published in the Wild bird populations in the UK, 1970-2016 statistical release (Defra, November 2017), rescaled here to give year 2000 = 100 instead of year 1970 = 100.
The index for woodland specialists was recalculated in 2007 to include 4 additional species; this affected the indices for total woodland birds and (to a lesser extent) all birds. A further change in 2015 resulted in the removal of one woodland specialist species from the index. A seabird index was excluded in 2017.
Public opinion on tree health
Public Opinion of Forestry Surveys have been run every 2 years by the Forestry Commission. The surveys cover public attitudes to forestry and forestry-related issues. A question asking about tree health was included for the first time in the 2013 surveys (Figure 5.2). Further information on the surveys is available in the Sources: Public Opinion of Forestry page.
Information about wildfires comes from the Incident Recording System (IRS), reported by Fire and Rescue Services and submitted to the Home Office (previously to the Department for Communities and Local Government), Scottish Government and Welsh Government.
Information on woodland areas has been obtained from the National Forest Inventory woodland map. Further details on the definition of woodland and the coverage of the National Forest Inventory are provided in the Woodland Area and Planting section of the Sources chapter.
A spatial (GIS) analysis has been undertaken to identify fires that occurred in woodlands, as defined by the National Forest Inventory.
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (2017) "Wild bird populations in the UK, 1970-2016", National Statistics Release (www.gov.uk/government/publications/wild-bird-populations-in-the-uk).
Home Office "Fire Statistics data tables" (https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/fire-statistics)
Limited data are currently available on the environmental aspects of woodlands. Other than Wild Bird Populations, all of the statistics in this chapter are outside the scope of National Statistics, but are included here to give a broad indication of the woodland environment.
Statistics on the environment obtained from others are subject to revision whenever the source data are revised.
The data on woodland fires in 2015-16 and 2016-17 are released for the first time in this publication. Figures for earlier years have been revised from previous editions of Forestry Statistics to:
- exclude "loose refuse" fires, resulting in a reduction of 2,122 woodland fires in England in 2011-12, 129 fires in Wales in 2013-14 and 122 fires in Wales in 2014-15; and
- include an area of 200 hectares burnt in Wales in 2011-12 that had previously been incorrectly excluded.
The Forestry Commission’s revisions policy sets out how revisions and errors to these statistics are dealt with, and can be found at: www.forestresearch.gov.uk/documents/4355/FCrevisions.pdf.
For information on the release schedules of statistics produced by others, see relevant websites (above).
The next Public Opinion of Forestry survey is expected to run in early 2019, with results available in summer 2019.
"Forestry Statistics 2019" and "Forestry Facts & Figures 2019" will be released on 26 September 2019.
Chapter 5: Environment