New guidance issued by government agency Scottish Forestry will require the use of less disruptive techniques when preparing the ground for woodland creation.

A key measure to be introduced this October will reduce ploughing on peaty soils, helping to protect these important carbon sinks which are also vital for biodiversity.

These measures mean that after October 1 Scottish Forestry will not accept any Forestry Grant Scheme applications that include ploughing on soils where peat depth exceeds 10cm.

The move follows analysis of soils carried out by the Forest Research agency. It found that ploughing on soils with an organic layer greater than 10cm represented a significant risk of soil carbon emissions and may mean the soil does not begin to sequester carbon for another 20 years or more.

Given the importance of woodland creation in achieving net-zero targets by 2045, the action is being taken to prevent unnecessary emissions.

Màiri McAllan, Scotland’s minister for environment, biodiversity and land reform, said: “Our forests and woodlands have a huge part to play in tackling climate change by soaking up millions of tonnes of harmful emissions while supporting the Scottish economy – generating around £1 billion each year and supporting 25,000 jobs. As such, it is important to review and update guidance for the industry.