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In this chapter we assess the net benefits of converting land out of agriculture and into woodland. This appraisal is made from a number of standpoints. We have considered two types of agricultural production (sheep and milk) each assessed in two ways (farm-gate and social values), and two species of tree (conifer, represented by Sitka spruce, and broadleaf, represented by beech). Furthermore, we have assessed a variety of woodland benefits (recreation, timber and carbon sequestration) allowing us to consider a succession of definitions of what, in economic terms, constitutes a woodland. Finally, we have assessed the net benefits of land conversion using a variety of discount rates.
The results presented here consider various permutations of the factors discussed above. In essence our approach starts with the present agricultural values of a specific farm type (say sheep farming) and subtracts various definitions of woodland benefits (say, timber and carbon storage) assessed at a given discount rate (say 6 per cent). Thus a negative outcome would indicate that woodland benefits outstrip those of agriculture, and vice versa for positive sums. These various net benefit value estimates are obtained by using the GIS to overlay the respective value maps and adding or subtracting values as necessary.
A general caveat to our findings concerns the fact that our study data period is the early 1990s rather than the present day.