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Conifer forest with looking up at the canopy with younger tree and small log pile

The forest's lifecycle

Well-managed forests can last forever. Find out how we look after the nation’s forests, sustainably for the future.

people at a viewpoint looking out to tree canopy

Plan

Each forest has a plan. We create forest plans with local communities, partners and experts so that our forests can provide the best balance for people, wildlife and timber. It records how the forest is unique.

Our expert foresters decide on which tree species to plant and where, depending on the landscape and conditions such as the soil type. 

We also consider predicted future climate and choose species suited to these changing conditions to give our trees the best chance to thrive in years to come.
 

Plant

Sustainable forestry is based on the natural lifecycle of trees. We collect seeds from trees to grow in our nurseries. The saplings are cared for by our staff to make sure they are healthy and have the best chance at life. 

We plant trees to to create new woodlands and regenerate forests recently harvested for timber. Planting is usually done by hand during the winter, when the trees are dormant, to limit stress in this fragile stage.

Sometimes there is enough seed in the ground from surrounding trees to develop the required woodland, called natural regeneration. We encourage natural regeneration wherever possible, but this can sometimes take time. Planting saplings ensures a new forest begins to grow more quickly.

Close up of boot planting small tree
Conifer forest with looking up at the canopy with younger trees below

Grow

Over the years, the trees form a forest. We monitor them for signs of disease or damage. The changing climate means that new pests and diseases are finding a home in our forests,  so it's important to make sure our trees are healthy to combat this threat.

As the trees grow, they absorb carbon dioxide from our atmosphere and convert it into wood. They also release oxygen, something that we all need to live. 

The forest provides a diverse range of habitats for wildlife. The forest also provides a place for people to exercise, relax and enjoy nature.

Fell

Some trees will not grow as well as others. We fell some of the smaller trees to create space and light for the other trees to grow. This is called thinning. 

Once the forest is fully grown, it is time to harvest the valuable timber. This can happen anywhere between 40 and 150 years after planting, depending on the type of tree. Using sustainable wood to make products ensures the carbon can be stored for a longer period than the natural life of the tree. 

The land will be replanted according to the forest plan and begin the cycle again. The nation’s forests are a patchwork of different habitats at different stages of the forest’s lifecycle – as some areas are felled, others are being planted. Well-managed forests can last forever. 

Timber lorry picking up logs from a stack in the forest
Westonbirt Woodworks

Timber

Wood is a beautiful, strong and renewable natural material with endless uses. We are the country’s largest supplier of sustainable timber grown in England.

At the sawmill, the timber is cut into different pieces and used in furniture, fences and building materials. Even the bark, wood shavings and sawdust are used. Nothing is wasted. 

In fact, wood is one of our most sustainable materials. Wood is a low-carbon alternative to materials such as plastic, concrete and steel, and is often reused or recycled again and again.

When you shop for wood and paper products, always make sure to look for the FSC® or PEFC logos. This means they come from forests, like ours, that are managed sustainably for the future.

Keep exploring

Tiny trees at tree nursery
Our nurseries grow 18 million new trees every year to replant forests across Britain and create new areas of woodland. Find out how we're growing our future forests.
Timber lorry picking up logs from a stack in the forest
England’s forests provide wood that is part of our everyday lives. Find out how the trees we grow end up in your home.
Ground preparation for Rushy Knowe tree planting in Kielder Forest
We are creating new woodlands for you to enjoy, wildlife to flourish and businesses to grow.
Forest from the sky
We are working to protect the nation’s forests so that future generations can still enjoy them.