A NEW application to help landowners carry out woodland surveys has launched. 

The Woodland Condition Assessment (WCA) app has been developed by the Field Studies Council, which operates Nettlecombe Court field centre at Taunton, the Forestry Commission and Sylva Foundation. 

The app is aimed at reducing the complexity and workload for woodland owners and managers. There are also resource guides and training available to help people to use the app. 

The project has been funded by Defra's Nature for Climate Fund. The app aims to improve the speed and accuracy of the existing WCA process, which currently requires landowners and managers to fill out and submit complex and extensive survey forms and spreadsheets to obtain results on the ecological condition of a woodland area.

Neil Riddle, of the Forestry Commission (leaders of the project), said the app means reports on woodland condition can be easily generated. It also provides statistics for the Forestry Commission and key data about how woodlands are faring across the country. 

“A condition assessment is a key element to help us understand where woodland management can be altered to improve the condition, so it was important that we created a tool that is user-friendly and provides meaningful data to monitor the condition of our woodlands," he said. 

“Users will also be able to print evidence that they have completed an assessment, all without the spreadsheets used previously which were complex and required a high level of knowledge or experience.

“Our plan is that by developing accessible training and learning resources, more woodland owners and managers will be encouraged to complete assessments and alter their management practices to benefit biodiversity.”

Users of the app complete a survey while walking through woodland. This then produces scores for a range of features. Depending on the cumulative scores across all features, a woodland’s condition will be rated as either good, moderate or poor.

The Field Studies Council has developed the resource guides and training. Clare Rooney, biodiversity programme manager, said: “Feedback from existing WCA users (those working with the complex and lengthy spreadsheets) showed us that there was a real demand for an improved and more accessible version, alongside the need for additional guidance and resources.

“Effective woodland condition assessments rely on those implementing them having the requisite species and habitat knowledge for the most accurate results. The guides and training from the Field Studies Council heavily improve identification skills, which are essential for completing a WCA and will help produce the most accurate results.

“Working with our partners we have been able to share our expertise to create a tool and resources that will make such a difference to new and existing users and, ultimately, to the health of our woodlands.”

For more information about the training courses or the app, click here

The Sylva Foundation, a charity dedicated to reviving Britain’s woodland culture, provided the design and development expertise for the new app.

Dr Gabriel Hemery, charity chief executive, added: “The new app brings assessing a woodland’s condition into the 21st century, providing a more straightforward and user-friendly approach.

“The WCA App, together with the training and guides, will support improved woodland management. The new app will simplify the process for all users, particularly with the introduction of new rules around biodiversity net gain and other legislation for developers and landowners to consider.

“This project has been an excellent example of what can be achieved when like-minded partners work together, and I am very pleased that Sylva Foundation has been an important part of it.”