2.5 Monitoring

Requirement

Guidance

The science behind the assessment of carbon sequestration

Future developments

Requirement

  • Projects should be reviewed at year five and then at least every 10 years after the project start date (for single projects) or the group start date (for groups).

Year 5

  • At year 5, the ‘Year 5 Monitoring Protocol’ shall be followed for all projects, whether ‘standard’ or ‘small’ projects.
  • Monitoring shall start 12 months prior to the end of the vintage/verification due date.
  • Single projects or groups shall submit a Project Progress Report alongside the relevant Monitoring Report.

After year 5

After year 5, there are three options for monitoring and either verification or self-assessment. At the end of each vintage, projects shall complete one of the following:

Undertake full monitoring and third party verification (any project).

This leads to the conversion of Pending Issuance Units to Woodland Carbon Units. Single projects or groups shall submit a Project Progress Report alongside the relevant Monitoring Report for third party Verification. Upon verification, the single project or group will be marked Verified and Pending Issuance Units realised will be converted to verified Woodland Carbon Units.

Undertake basic monitoring and third party verification (small projects only).

This leads to the conversion of Pending Issuance Units to verified Woodland Carbon Units. Single projects or groups shall submit a Project Progress Report alongside the relevant Basic Monitoring Report for third party Verification. Upon verification, their single project or group will be marked Verified and Pending Issuance Units will be converted to verified Woodland Carbon Units. All Pending Issuance Units will be converted provided the extent and health of the project is demonstrated.

Undertake basic monitoring without third party verification (standard or small projects).

In this case units will not be converted – they will remain as ‘Pending Issuance Units’. Single projects or groups shall submit their project as Self-Assessed with the relevant Project Progress Report alongside the relevant Basic Monitoring Report to the WCC Secretariat. Once checked, the project will be marked Self Assessed and no units will be converted.

Extensions, corrective actions and remedial plans

  • If there are extenuating circumstances for a delay, the project shall seek the approval of the Woodland Carbon Code Secretariat. If approval is granted, a verification extension approval shall be uploaded to the UK Land Carbon Registry.
  • Corrective actions shall be undertaken if establishment and/or tree growth and carbon sequestration rates do not meet predicted and validated amounts.
  • Where corrective actions are not quickly resolved, then the project shall be verified ‘subject to corrective actions being completed’, upon provision of a Remedial Plan. If corrective actions are not resolved and there is no Remedial Plan, then your project shall either be verified with Red status or not verified at all, depending on the severity of concern about the project's success.

Guidance

Monitoring Plan

Each project needs to have a monitoring plan in place before validation. Monitoring will enable the project to quantify and document the progress of carbon sequestration as well as ensure that the project is being managed to the UK Forestry Standard. The monitoring plan shall be set out in the project design document.

When to monitor

Projects developers need to undertake the field survey six to 12 months (but no more than 12 months, except in exceptional circumstances) prior to each verification due-date to:

  • demonstrate successful woodland establishment at year five, and
  • assess actual tree growth and carbon sequestration rates from year 15 onwards. 

Starting the monitoring six to 12 months before the due date allows sufficient time for verification to be completed before the verification due-date.

Monitoring at year-5

The first verification due-date is five years after the start date (for those projects validated earlier than July 2013, timing of the first verification may differ).

The purpose of monitoring at year five is to ensure that the site has been suitably stocked and established (as set out in the project design document) and that the trees/ site are in good health with the potential to grow and sequester carbon as predicted. All projects should use the Woodland Carbon Code survey protocol V2.1.1 April 2024 (.pdf) which sets out requirements of the year five survey. It assesses:

  • Tree stocking density through the number of seedlings and saplings of each species
  • Actual species mix
  • Tree health, tree damage, weed growth and tree protection (shelters/fencing)

The Woodland Carbon Code year 5 monitoring report V2.1.1 April 2024 (.xlsx) provides template sheets for data collection as well as a summary sheet which calculates stocking density from the results of the field survey. You will submit a project progress report V2.1 March 2021 (.docx) and the year 5 monitoring report, with site-based photos to your chosen verifier. On verification, the predicted number of Pending Issuance Units will be converted to Woodland Carbon Units with no under or over delivery.

At year five, projects will be verified to a ‘limited’ level of assurance.

Monitoring from year 15 onwards

Verification due-dates for subsequent assessments will be 15 years after the project start date and then at least 10-yearly up to the project end date. There are three options for monitoring:

Full monitoring and 3rd party verification

The purpose of monitoring from year 15 onwards is to assess the carbon stock of the site and to confirm that the trees/site are in good health with the potential to grow and sequester carbon as predicted. This involves carrying out a plot-based mensuration survey for year 15 onwards following the Woodland Carbon Code survey protocol V2.1.1 April 2024 (pdf). It assesses:

  • Carbon stock
  • Tree health

The Woodland Carbon Code year 15+ monitoring report pilot V2.1 March 2021 (xlsx) provides template sheets for data collection as well as summary sheets to calculate the carbon stock of the woodland. You will submit a project progress report V2.1 March 2021 (docx) and Woodland Carbon Code year 15+ monitoring report with site-based photos to your chosen verifier. On verification, your units realised will be converted from Pending Issuance Units to Woodland Carbon Units.

  • If your survey results confirm more carbon is stored onsite than predicted, then your verification status will be ‘green’ and you will be issued more Woodland Carbon Units, in line with your survey results.
  • If your survey results confirm less carbon is stored onsite than predicted, then your verification status will be ‘red’ and any undelivered Pending Issuance Units will be cancelled.
  • If the verifier’s assessment is that there is real concern for the ability of your project to sequester the predicted amount in future vintages, you will be required to re-assess your carbon prediction and Pending Issuance Units issued for future vintages will be cancelled.

Projects which undertake full monitoring will be verified to a ‘reasonable’ level of assurance.

Basic monitoring and 3rd party verification (for projects that used the Small Project Calculator)

For projects that used the small project calculator, basic monitoring can be carried out to assess the carbon stock of the site and to confirm that the trees/ site are in good health. You will submit a project progress report V2.1 March 2021 (docx) and basic monitoring report for verification. On verification, it will be assumed that the predicted amount of carbon dioxide has been sequestered and your units will be converted from Pending Issuance Units to Woodland Carbon Units with no under or over delivery.

You can only undertake basic monitoring and third party verification if:

  • Your project is at least 15 years old. 
  • You used the ‘small woods calculator’ at validation.
  • It’s not the last monitoring period of your project. At the last monitoring period you will be required to do full monitoring and third party verification.
  • There have been no major changes to the project since the last verification (area, management, ownership, health etc.).

The verifier can request other sources of information if any source supplied is not clear. If the verifier still has any concerns about the growth or health of the project, they can request that you conduct Full Monitoring prior to verification of your small project.

Small projects which undertake basic monitoring will be verified to a ‘limited’ level of assurance.

Basic monitoring and Self-Assessment

Self-assessment involves carrying out basic monitoring and uploading your basic monitoring report and project progress report to the registry without third party verification. There will be a basic check of the evidence submitted by the Woodland Carbon Code Secretariat and your project will have the status ‘self-assessed’. If you self-assess, your carbon units will remain as Pending Issuance Units and won’t be converted to Woodland Carbon Units, so they still can’t be used by buyers to report against their emissions.

You can only undertake self-assessment from year 15 onwards if:

  • Your latest verification received a ‘green’ status (if a group, all projects have to be ‘green’ status) and you don’t have any concerns about the growth and health of your project.
  • Your latest assessment was a verification, not a self-assessment.
  • It’s not the last monitoring period of your project. At the last monitoring period you will be required to do full monitoring and third party verification.
  • There have been no major changes to the project (area, management, ownership, health etc.)

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you intend to self-assess and we will check you meet the criteria.

When reviewing a ‘self-assessed’ project, the Secretariat can request other sources of information if any source supplied is not clear. If the Secretariat are content with the information provided, they will approve the project as ‘self-assessed’. If the Secretariat still have any concerns about the growth and health of a project that is submitted as ‘self-assessed’, the Secretariat can require that full monitoring and third party verification is undertaken.

Self-assessed projects are not verified. No Pending Issuance Units will be converted to Woodland Carbon Units.

Basic Monitoring Requirements

  • Complete the project progress report which confirms the project still meets the standard and is still on track.
  • Project developer prepares a basic monitoring report containing imagery of the site as follows, to confirm the health, growth and extent of the woodland. Project developers should check proposed aerial imagery with the Woodland Carbon Code Secretariat (for self-assessment) or verifier (for verification): 
  • An updated map (with planted/open/existing woodland and project boundary) if the net area apparent on aerial image is at odds with the original map. This should follow Woodland Carbon Code mapping guidance. If there is greater than a 5% disparity in apparent net area, then full monitoring should be undertaken.

Who can undertake the assessment?

The year five or year 15 survey can be carried out by a suitably experienced landowner, project developer or independent third party. The verifier may also offer to carry out the field survey on the project developer's behalf. The verification body will always visit the site at the year five verification, but will do so on a risk-based approach for subsequent verifications. Monitoring carried out by an independent third party could be less likely to require a verification body field visit, however project developers should contact their chosen verification body to check the suitability of an independent surveyor prior to carrying out the survey.

The science behind the assessment of carbon

The Woodland Carbon Code Survey Protocol is a subset of methods outlined in the Woodland Carbon Code Carbon Assessment Protocol (pdf). Methods of calculating the tree stem volume are detailed further in the Forest Mensuration Handbook. The methods of estimating the mass of carbon from the tree volume are given in The Carbon Content of Trees (pdf) and other Forestry Commission publications such as:

Future Developments

  • We will develop a soil carbon assessment protocol.
  • We are investigating how technology such as instruments on drones, planes and satellites could help with verification. We will add to the protocol when such methods are acceptable and cost effective.
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