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Value beyond Carbon: an analysis of Woodland Carbon Code forest expansion in Scotland

Integrating natural capital thinking into land-based decision-making
Glensaugh research farm (© Paola Ovando, 2019)





The Woodland Carbon Code (WCC) is a voluntary forest carbon sequestration standard set up by the UK Government in 2011. Today (September 2020) 526 projects have been registered in the WCC, with 258 ‘validated’ as meeting its standards, 91 of these projects has been ‘verified’ (meaning independently inspected and have been confirmed that they are progressing as they have predicted that they should). About half of these projects are located in Scotland. The validated registered projects cover just over 12,500 hectares in Scotland, with a projected carbon sequestration of 4.4 million tCO2 over the projects’ lifetime (up to 100 years). About 35% of the validated projects have been verified, which allows issuing carbon sequestration credits.


New forests being created through the WCC are partly created for sequestering carbon, but they are also being created to fulfil other objectives. These objectives, and values, might include biodiversity, recreation, aesthetics, shelter, timber, protecting riparian belts, to name just a few.

Woodland expansion if properly designed can provide multiple benefits, while increasing ecosystems resilience. This is also a key sustainable investment that is likely to be part of Green Recovery Plans.



This project aims to improve our understanding on the motivations, objectives and preferences of different stakeholders involved in the WCC scheme, such as land owners/holders undertaking woodland expansion investment to deliver carbon credits, forest developers involved, and buyers of carbon credits, and how their different preferences have an influence in the type of woodland expansion projects promoted.


This research aims to explore the following:

      • What are the broader anticipated environmental and social benefits of these woodlands?

      • What are different stakeholders aims and objectives for promoting woodland expansion projects through the WCC scheme?

      • How these preferences and objectives have affected woodland expansion designs?


We will analyse and compare different projects in terms of carbon offsetting opportunities, and co-benefits for landowners, businesses, local communities, and wider society.  We will discuss the project implication in terms of carbon additionality, and how the projects align with other cultural, recreational, aesthetic, historical or biodiversity values. 





This research employs a mixture of quantitative and qualitative methods to gain a comprehensive understanding of woodland expansion through the WCC in Scotland. The qualitative analysis focus on the data drawn from Project Design Documents (PDDs) created by developers when registering forests with the WCC Markit Environmental Registry. This registry contains detailed information on the project design, partners involved, and objectives, amongst other data.

This data provides some insights on the additional, or even primary motivations for creating woodland besides carbon.  We are using NVivo and Statistical analysis to improve our understanding on the commonalities, differences and changes over time on the motivations for developing new woodlands through the WCC scheme as stated in the Markit Environmental Registry.


In addition, we are conducting semi-structured interviews with stakeholders involved at various levels of the WCC process. These include landowners, project developers, carbon buyers, and individuals involved in the governance of the WCC. These interviews purpose is to build upon the foundation of information gathered from the Markit Registry, and to offer some inside perspectives on the functioning of the WCC scheme, barriers, challenges and opportunities for the three different actors involved in the scheme.



A poster presentation with the preliminay results of the project can be downloaded here: WCC-Values beyond carbon poster



Research team


Paola Ovando Pol (The James Hutton Institute)

James Koronka (The James Hutton Institute)

Jo Vergunst (University of Aberdeen)





This work is supported by the Macaulay Development Trust through a Fellowhip in Natural Capital. This fellowship aims to contribute to natural capital accounting and valuation approaches applied to the analysis of the impacts and dependencies of farming activities on natural capital to inform policy and land-decision making.


For any inquiries, please contact Paola Ovando Pol


Project Information
Project Type: 
Active Project


Areas of Interest

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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.