Protecting soil is a crucial part of sustainable forest management. Healthy soil is the basis of a healthy forest, and it is also fundamental to good water quality.

In Scotland, the sustainable management and protection of soils is promoted by the Scottish Soils Framework. The UK Forestry Standard contains soil chapter which offer explanation and guidance on good practice soil management. Forest managers may also wish to read about research on soil sustainability by Forest Research.

To comply with the UK Forestry Standard, forest owners and managers will, on occasion, need to collect data on the soils in their forests. Data on soils is also needed to apply for consent or grant support from Scottish Forestry. Scotland's soils offer guidance on how to collect this data.

Cultivation for Upland Productive Woodland Creation Sites - an Applicant's Guide    

The purpose of this guidance is to support forestry practitioners in making decisions about what cultivation techniques to use for upland productive woodland creation sites. It provides a framework for discussion at planning stage, to ensure reasoned and appropriate choices for cultivation are made based on the site’s soil type(s) and related characteristics and in the context of long-term management objectives. Applying this guidance will help ensure that cultivation operations comply with UK Forestry Standard requirements and guidelines on soils and water.

View an applicant's guide for Cultivation for Upland Productive Woodland Creation Sites.

Peatland habitats   

It is now well accepted that trees can help to mitigate climate change by sequestering carbon. However, forestry operations on deep peat can, in some circumstances, result in an overall release of carbon due to changes in the soil.

The UK Forestry Standard reflects this. New forests should not be established on deep peat (where the peat layer is deeper than 50 cm), or on sites where planting would compromise the hydrology of adjacent bog or wetland habitats. On deep peat sites that are already afforested, forest managers should consider the carbon impact of different management options alongside other priorities such as timber production, biodiversity and landscape - restocking is not necessarily the best option.

We have guidance available for foresters, land managers and planners working in Scotland’s forests. There is also information about Forest Research work on woodland creation and soil carbon. The carbon science of trees and peatland is a rapidly developing area, and we will review our guidance when there are further scientific developments. As well as informing good forestry practice, this suite of guidance helps to implement the National Peatland Plan for Scotland.