University of Bristol
Wellcome Trust
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Society of Biology
PEEP for Physics & Ethics at GCSE


Habitat destruction – Afforestation

Afforestation is a special form of agriculture called silviculture.

  • Afforestation is the commercial planting of trees on land that once had forests e.g. the Highlands of Scotland.
  • Only a few species are grown, they are harvested when they are full grown for timber and making paper.
  • To the non-scientist, this sounds a ‘good thing’ as it is bringing back forests and woodland.
  • Unfortunately this is not always the case and afforestation can often reduce biodiversity and cause loss of valuable habitats such as ‘blanket/peat bogs’ and heather moor.
  • Scottish peat bogs have global importance in terms of biodiversity.
     Learn more

The conflicts caused by this form of silviculture are:

  • Loss of biodiversity
    • loss of peat bog
    • non-native species of pine tree do not support endemic species
    • close planting means only shade plants can survive
  • Pollution
    • Pine trees produce acid conditions which kill life in local streams
    • High levels of pesticide are used to maintain the monoculture and get into food chains
    • Water run-off from pine needles can be toxic to aquatic life
  • Drainage
    • Drainage channels alter local water courses and affect other habitats
    • Pine trees take 20% more water than broad-leaved trees
  • Aesthetics
    • Lines of trees are very unnatural and unsightly
    • Felling of large areas cause unsightly hill sides

    During the last few decades in the UK, afforestation has taken many of these conflicts into account and many of the new plantations support many more species.

    The Forestry Commission is now dedicated to afforestation which enhances biodiversity. Unfortunately, this is not always the case in other countries.


  1. The World Rainforest Movement website has a summary article discussing the increasing practice of afforestation in many third world countries. This article highlights the conflicts.
     Read the article
  2. Visit the Forestry Commission website and see how they are tackling the afforestation problem and actively increasing biodiversity in UK woodland. Start by looking at the sustainability link.
     Go to the website
  3. Clickable picture – Roll your mouse over the diagram and discover how modern sustainable afforestation can minimize damage and even increase local biodiversity.

 Habitat Destruction - Climate Change

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