Skip to content

Woodland, Hedgerows & Peatland

Woodland, hedgerows and peatland on farms are important resources for providing habitats for livestock and biodiversity, climate resilience buffers, potential carbon sinks and income streams, and overall enhancing the natural capital of your farm.

From a carbon perspective, all three habitats can offer means to build carbon sinks on farm, through maintenance, enhancement or expansion, providing a means to increase carbon sequestration on your farm's carbon balance sheet.

This page link to resources on the carbon capture potential of woodlands, hedgerows and peatland, ways to optimise these, and options for financing management. FAS Sound's Natural Capital podcast provides regular insights into carbon and other aspects of managing natural resources on farm.

Woodland for Carbon

Hedgerow Management

Hedges offer farmers, crofters and landowners the opportunity to enhance farm natural capital reserves without compromising productive farmland or creating new farm habitats. Creation and management of these important linear features can have a series of important benefits, including: 

  • Increased farmland biodiversity 
  • Improved livestock productivity 
  • Farmland biosecurity 
  • Increasing resilience to climate change


Healthy hedgerow bordering a stubble field

Promote Biodiversity 

Farmland birds have seen a significant decline since the 1950s. The addition of hedgerows on your farm can help birds like the skylark and lapwing bounce back. Hedgerows provide birds with what is collectively known as ‘the big three’: 

  1. Access to invertebrate-rich habitats to feed their chicks during the breeding season. 
  2. Seeds and berries to sustain populations throughout the winter. 
  3. Safe places to nest and rear chicks. 

Hear about the benefits that Old Leckie Farm have realised in terms of nature value from subdividing fields with hedges 

Improve Livestock Productivity 

Hedgerows provide shade and shelter from the weather improving not only the health and welfare of livestock but overall productivity. For example, hedges offer shelter from poor weather which reduces exposure in young lambs. Similarly, the shelter in the summer ensures that fertility and growth rates of livestock are not compromised.  

Ensure Biosecurity 

Hedges between fields particularly on the boundary between you and your neighbour can prevent nose-to-nose contact of animals reducing the spread of diseases such as Bovine Viral Diarrhoea. A thick stockproof hedge can also be of value as the boundary in an isolation field to keep purchased stock separate from your current flock/herd when they initially move onto the farm.  

Increase Your Farm’s Resilience 

Hedges have an important role to play in water absorption. The deep roots of hedges help soils absorb a greater quantity of water reducing the quantity of water that will run off the surface. This has additional benefits in terms of reducing soil erosion and preventing sediment reaching burns and rivers. As the climate changes and we experience increased rainfall, hedges offer a real advantage to protecting farmland and crops from flooding and soil erosion.  

Next Steps

If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of adding hedgerows to your farm. We’d recommend reviewing our technical note on hedges or our practical guide 

The peoples trust for endangered species have a wealth of information on their website. 

Hedgelink is a resource where people and organisations can share knowledge and approaches about how to cultivate hedges throughout the UK. 

Protecting Scotland's Peatlands

A Critical Source Of Carbon Capture

More than 20% of our land in Scotland is covered by peat and according to NatureScot, they hold the equivalent of 140 years’ worth of Scotland’s total annual greenhouse gas emissions. Peatlands have been capturing and storing carbon for thousands of years, however, when degraded these peatlands actively emit carbon. Peatland restoration provides a crucial vehicle to help Scotland tackle climate change and provides a low hanging fruit enabling farmers to offset greenhouse gas emissions.

Key Benefits Of Peatland Restoration

Peatland restoration is becoming increasingly high profile, with Scottish Government proposing £250 million over 10 years to help meet climate targets and help Scotland work towards its ambition of zero net carbon by 2045. In addition to storing carbon, healthy peatlands also:

  • Support biodiversity
  • Help purify water
  • Regulate water flows and prevent downstream flooding

Read our guide on the benefits of restoring degraded peatland, including sequestering carbon, improving biodiversity and water quality.

Sign up to the FAS newsletter

Receive updates on news, events and publications from Scotland’s Farm Advisory Service