Woodland Wealth Appraisal for the East of England: update 2010

John Powell carried out an update in 2010 of previous woodland valuation work, conducted by Paul Selman (now at University of Sheffield) and John Powell, for the Forestry Commission (East of England Conservancy). The project updated the Woodland Wealth 2003 study, which estimated the values of woodland and forests in the East of England Region. The project involved exploration of relevant literature from 2002-2010 and updated the woodland values from 2003 based on new information and in some cases using alternative approaches to measuring benefits. The work also explored the reasons for differences between the 2010 and 2003 valuations.

Overall current annual woodland wealth for the region was estimated to lie in the range £4.088 to £5.06 billion with a mid-point value of £4.609 billion/year, which represents a large difference from the £680 million estimated for the region in 2003 (if 2003 values are updated to 2010 through use of an inflation calculator the 2003 woodland wealth would be approximately £801 million). The underlying cause was found to be the addition of present value carbon sequestration measures for the region which were not fully included in the 2003 study as there was a lack of certainty about the carbon stock of woodland, and about valuing the impacts of carbon based emissions at that time.   Exploration of values other than carbon sequestration revealed current ‘wealth’ estimates for 2010 ranging from £964 million to £1.475 billion. These values represent the annual level of wealth generated by forest and woodland each year. Much of the increase from 2003 is due to inflation and was attributed to changes in the value estimates of different sources of woodland wealth. Woodland values were separately estimated for the following:

  • recreation and tourism
  • housing and industry  
  • field sports
  • education  
  • biodiversity
  • carbon sequestration  
  • landscape
  • water and air quality  
  • health
  • market values (e.g. for timber).  

The estimated values for recreation, biodiversity, landscape and health impacts were felt to be more secure than those estimated in 2003, although there were still difficulties in estimating some values. For example, health benefits measured as costs avoided are sensitive to assumptions about the number of households potentially affected by specific diseases, education benefits are based on simplistic calculations of costs avoided, rather than some measure of the educational value of woodland in society, and measures of water and air quality are incomplete with many potential benefits (e.g. soil conservation, groundwater quality) missing, or inadequately estimated (e.g. flood mitigation).