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The statistics presented in the Environment chapter of this release cover:

  • populations of wild birds;
  • public opinion on tree health; and
  • woodland fires.

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, 1970-2017 statistical release (Defra, November 2018), 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 Forest Research (on behalf of the Forestry Commission, Scottish Forestry, Welsh Government/ Natural Resources Wales and Northern Ireland Forest Service). 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.

Woodland fires

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 (2018) “Wild bird populations in the UK, 1970-2017”, National Statistics Release (

Home Office “Fire Statistics data tables” (


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.

No new data on woodland fires is currently available, so the figures shown are as presented in Forestry Statistics 2018.

Our revisions policy sets out how revisions and errors to these statistics are dealt with, and can be found at:

Release schedule

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 2021, with results available in summer 2021.

“Forestry Statistics 2020” and “Forestry Facts & Figures 2020” will be released on 24 September 2020.

Additional resources

Chapter 5: Environment

Tools & Resources
In this section
Tools & Resources