At one time, Dumfries and Galloway would have been extensively covered with broadleaved woodland. Today, relatively little of this woodland legacy remains intact and much is highly fragmented. That said, there are still a variety of woodland habitats across the region that provide rich habitat to a diverse range of species.
Native woodland occurs when the canopy consists of at least 50% locally native trees and shrubs. This habitat is today uncommon in Dumfries and Galloway as it is in many regions, yet where it does occur it supports a valuable array of biodiversity. The main woodland types in the region are upland birchwood, upland oakwood and wet woods. Native woodlands that are ungrazed or lightly grazed are notable for their ground flora and may give wonderful springtime displays of Bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta. Wet woods are often rich in bryophytes and ferns, including the rare Wilson's Filmy Fern Hymenophyllum wilsonii.
There are extensive areas of wood and scrub pasture in the region, which are often associated with wet flushes, particularly in Galloway. The unimproved grassland part of this habitat supports a mosaic of plant species not found on improved grassland. Butterflies are abundant, including occurrences of the Scotch Argus Erebia aethiops and Large Skipper Ochlodes venata, as well as birds usually found on woodland edges, such as Yellowhammer Emberiza citronella and the locally scarce Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca.
Lowland wood pasture and parkland occurs where grazing is still practiced at a level which sustains special features associated with open ground. There are only a few examples of parkland in the region, usually within old estates, though probably more than has been previously estimated. Old trees are important for saproxylic invertebrates (those that are dependant, during some part of their life cycle, on dead or dying wood), as well as fungi and lichen.
Planted coniferous woodland is composed wholly or mainly of conifer species, both native and introduced, with approximately 23% of the region planted with conifers. This type of habitat is perceived as species poor; however, it provides some unique habitats for important and threatened species, such as the Red Squirrel Sciurus vulgaris. Woodland ride and glades can be significant for vascular plants and invertebrates, as well as lichens, mosses, ferns and fungi.
Six woodland habitats are considered priorities in the Local Biodiversity Action Plan:
- Native Wet Woods
- Native Ash Woods
- Native Oak Woods
- Native Birch Woods
- Forest Ponds
- Wood Pastures and Parkland