Forests and woodlands cover approximately 15% of the land area of Wales and their management can have a large influence on the quantity and quality of downstream water which affects the health of aquatic ecosystems and the downstream uses of that water for social and economic benefit.
Whilst forests can provide mitigation against natural hazards such as drought, flooding and soil erosion, inappropriate forest management can risk environmental harm and reduce the well-being benefits that we derive from water. Consequently, it is important that forest management is carried out in such a way as to minimize impacts on freshwater systems, in line with the principles of the sustainable management of natural resources.
The UK Forestry Standard (UKFS) and the UK Forest and Water Guidelines (UKFWG) explain how forests should be managed, covering issues such as silvicultural management, species choice, drainage management, the operation of machinery, pollution control, protection of public water supplies, brash management, use of chemicals fuels and oils, and riparian zone management.
The Welsh Government’s Woodlands for Wales Strategy acknowledges the important role woodlands and trees play in contributing to water and soil management. The Water Framework Directive (WFD) is also key as forestry activity is identified as a reason for not achieving good status in a number of water bodies across Wales.
We have produced a briefing note (October 2017) which gives an update on a range of issues relevant to forestry and water. The paper discusses the UKFS and UKFWG, acidification, the restoration of deep peat, pesticide usage, climate change, woodland creation, catchment-wide solutions, and partnership working. It covers our actions and progress to date on the Welsh Government Woodland Estate as well as those relevant to the wider Welsh Forest Resource where we can influence these.