D1. Biodiversity and ecosystem services

D1b. Removal of greenhouse gases by UK forests


Type: Benefit indicator


Indicator Description

UK forests are a large store of carbon and also act as an active carbon ‘sink’, removing carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas, from the atmosphere and storing it as carbon in living biomass, leaf litter and forest soil.  This sequestration of CO2 is an essential ecosystem service.  This indicator shows the cumulative net removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere by UK forests since 1990.  It is split between type of woodland (conifer and broadleaf).  Showing greenhouse gas removals by type of woodland is interesting from a biodiversity perspective as it allows a clearer presentation of the contribution made to greenhouse gas removals by broadleaf woodland, most of which constitutes priority habitat.



Cumulatively, since 1990, the equivalent of 372 million tonnes of CO2 has been removed from the atmosphere.  In 2015, UK forests are estimated to have removed the equivalent of 15.7 million tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere. The proportion of removals by broadleaf woodlands has increased since 1990, contributing 8.5 million tonnes of the removals (54%) in 2015 compared to 3.2 million tonnes (32%) removed in 1990.  Conversely the proportion of removals by conifer woodland has continued to fall, from 6.9 million tonnes (68%) in 1990 to 7.2 million tonnes (46%) in 2015


Figure D1bi.  Cumulative net removal of greenhouse gases by UK forests, 1990 to 2015.

Figure D1bi. Cumulative net removal of greenhouse gases by UK forests, 1990 to 2015.


  1. The bar graph shows the cumulative net removal of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O)) from the atmosphere by forests in the UK, expressed as CO2 equivalent.
  2. Revised in 2015 to reflect improved modelling of GHG emissions and removals.
  3. Revised in 2017 due to improvements made to the forestry sector of LULUCF for the 1990-2015 inventory and therefore not directly comparable with the previous publication.

Source: BEIS Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry greenhouse gas inventory.


Assessment of change in cumulative net removal of greenhouse gases


Long term

Short term

Latest year

Cumulative net removal of greenhouse gases

2010 indicator improving

indicator improving


Increased (2015)


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Last updated: August 2017

Latest data available: 2015 – Greenhouse gas removals by UK forests (LULUCF); 2011 – Carbon stocks of forests in Great Britain (NFI).