Inequality of Woodland Distribution across Britain

People living in Britain have some of the fewest trees per person anywhere in the world (see global data). But what about the distribution of trees within Britain? Due to the inequality of distribution, on average most British people have even fewer trees and woodlands, unless they live in rural Scotland and a small selection of other locations.

I used Westminster parliamentary constituency to divide Britain into 632 areas.

Constituency locations across Britain, with colour indicating woodland cover (red low/green high), and size indicating woodland area per person

I then compiled a map of Britain (sadly there’s poor data for Northern Ireland) and merged several data sets to indicate how well-off people are for woodlands in each constituency across Britain. See above and below (both maps are interactive – explore with your mouse).

Key Facts

  • Only one constituency has relatively excellent levels of woodland cover, attaining the maximum percentile: Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross with 3.2 hectares per person, thanks to a relatively high woodland cover (14.6%) and low human population (60,554).
  • The data was heavily skewed by this constituency (see piechart above), the median across all data being 0.008 ha hectares per person, given 7.8% woodland cover and 100,838 people per constituency. Assuming a mean of 80 trees per hectare in a mature woodland, there are 0.32 trees per person, or one tree between three people.
  • 172 constituencies have poor levels of woodland cover, an average of 0.004ha per person. This could equate to one tree for every 31 people.
  • 146 constituencies have very poor levels of woodland cover, with an average of 0.001ha per person. This could equate to one tree for every 125 people.
  • Together (last two facts) that means that 34 million Britain’s have poor to very poor levels of trees and woodland.
  • The constituencies with the most people per area of woodland were Luton South (ranked 632), Hackney North (631), and Bradford West (630).
  • The constituencies with the least people per area of woodland were Na h-Eileanan an Iar (ranked 1st), North East Cambridesire (2nd), and Runnymede and Waybridge (3rd).

Below is an interactive map of Britain showing the relative proportion of trees and woodlands per person per constituency, with pop-out additional data.

Explore this interactive map to reveal more information. Zoom in to find a particular constituency. Click on a constituency icon to reveal more data. A key is available top left. Click top right to make view full screen.

So What?

The lack of trees and woodlands affects so many aspects of our lives (e.g. lower house prices, increased risk of seasonal flooding, proven impacts on our health and wellbeing, clean air and water) and the resilience of the natural environment (e.g. poor habitats for wildlife).

While we may be some way from parliamentary elections in the UK, most of us will have the advantage of having time to start lobbying our local MPs for more trees where we live. If you use this information to lobby your MP, let me know!

About the Data

  • Woodland indicators by parliamentary constituency, Woodland Trust, 2019. This defines a woodland as an area with trees 0.5ha or larger.
  • Westminster Parliamentary Constituency boundaries 2017.
  • Population data, Office for National Statistics (England & Wales, 2017; Scotland, 2018).

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.