Forest ecosystems make an important contribution to the global carbon budget. This is because of their potential to sequester carbon in wood and soil but also because of their potential to release it if forests are cleared. Many countries and organisations, including the UK Government and the Forestry Commission, are cautious about promoting carbon sequestration as a means of reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide. The size of the potential gains is uncertain and the accounting procedures complicated. Moreover, there is a limit to the amount of carbon that woodland can sequester, and there is a risk that the sequestered could be released - through, for example, felling, forest fires or outbreaks of pests and diseases.
Forests and woodlands in the UK contain around 150 million tonnes of carbon, and every year they remove about 4 million tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere. These values need to be compared with total UK emissions of around 150 million tonnes of carbon (as carb