D1. Biodiversity and ecosystem services

D1b. Removal of greenhouse gases by UK forests


Type: Benefit indicator


Indicator Description

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 (coniferous 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.  




In 2016, forests in the UK are estimated to have removed the equivalent of 23.9 million tonnes (Mt) of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere (Figure D1bii). Cumulatively, since 1990, the equivalent of 587 Mt of CO2 has been removed by UK forests (Figure D1bi).

The proportion of removals by broadleaf woodland has increased since the time series began, accounting for 41% (9.8 Mt) of the estimated removals in 2016 compared to 34% (5.9 Mt) of the removals in 1990 (Figure D1bii).


Figure D1bi.  Cumulative net removals of greenhouse gases by UK forests, 1990 to 2016.




  1. The bar graph shows the cumulative net removals of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O)) from the atmosphere by forests in the UK, expressed as million tonnes of CO2 equivalent (Mt CO2e).
  2. Revised in 2015 to reflect improved modelling of greenhouse gas emissions and removals.
  3. Revised in 2017 due to improvements made to the forestry sector of the 1990 to 2015 Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry greenhouse gas inventory.
  4.  Revised in 2018 due to improvements in the ‘CARBINE’ model used to calculate the forest carbon stock figures for the 1990 to 2016 Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry greenhouse gas inventory (see background section for more details). These results are therefore not directly comparable with those in previous publications.

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



Increased (2016)


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Last updated: July 2018

Latest data available:

Greenhouse gas removals by UK forests (LULUCF) – 2016

Carbon stocks of forests in Great Britain (NFI) – 2011

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