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Plantation Forestry (Water Absorption)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 21st January 2016.

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Photo of Rob Gibson Rob Gibson Scottish National Party

4. To ask the Scottish Government how much surface water plantation forestry absorbs from surrounding watercourses and rainfall in the Highlands per annum. (S4O-05287)

Photo of Aileen McLeod Aileen McLeod Scottish National Party

We know that well-designed forests can play an important role in water management, including, in some circumstances, improving flood mitigation.

The 2011 national forest inventory identified a total of 203,281 hectares of plantation forestry, mainly comprising established conifer forests, in the Highland local authority region. Information that was published by Forest Research shows that each hectare of mature conifer plantation forest in the Highlands has the capacity to absorb approximately 7,000m3 of rainfall. That means that the plantation forests in the Highlands will have an annual absorption rate of approximately 1.4 billion cubic metres of water.

Photo of Rob Gibson Rob Gibson Scottish National Party

As well as absorbing water, what amount of CO2 is sequestered by plantation forestry in the Highlands per annum, and will that issue lead to a survey of plantable land in our uplands?

Photo of Aileen McLeod Aileen McLeod Scottish National Party

The official statistics show that, in 2013, forestry sequestered 10 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent in Scotland. Based on the calculations for an average conifer forest, it is estimated that the same area of plantation forestry in the Highlands sequesters approximately 2.13 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent each year.

Photo of Claudia Beamish Claudia Beamish Labour

Is the minister able to give us an update on agri-forestry and its contribution to flood prevention, and can she also talk about agri-forestry as an appropriate contribution to addressing climate change challenges?

Photo of Aileen McLeod Aileen McLeod Scottish National Party

I do not have the detail with me at the moment that would enable me to answer the member’s question, but I am happy to supply that information to her in writing afterwards.

Photo of Jamie McGrigor Jamie McGrigor Conservative

Forestry is becoming an increasingly important industry, especially as a tool in the fight against climate change. What efforts is the Scottish Government taking to encourage forest plantation and replantation for CO2 mitigation purposes, and how will it deal with the hole in forestry production that is predicted to appear in about 20 years’ time?

Photo of Aileen McLeod Aileen McLeod Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government funds and supports research into the use of woodland creation to contribute to the mitigation of climate change and the reduction of flooding. That research includes modelling our catchment and economic and mapping studies that are designed to quantify and demonstrate how our forests can contribute to flood risk management. Research is being trialled at a number of locations, and outputs from them will be disseminated to the industry.

As the member says, the Scottish forestry sector is growing. It contributes nearly £1 billion gross value added to the Scottish economy every year, with more than 25,000 full-time-equivalent posts in the sector. In addition, in 2013, forestry was the only sector in which there has been a net emissions sink.