A woodland (/ˈwʊdlənd/ (listen)) is, in the broad sense, land covered with trees,[1][2] or in a narrow sense, synonymous with wood (or in the U.S., the plurale tantum woods), a low-density forest forming open habitats with plenty of sunlight and limited shade (see differences between British, American, and Australian English explained below). Woodlands may support an understory of shrubs and herbaceous plants including grasses. Woodland may form a transition to shrubland under drier conditions or during early stages of primary or secondary succession. Higher-density areas of trees with a largely closed canopy that provides extensive and nearly continuous shade are often referred to as forests.

Woodland in Belianske Tatras in Slovakia

Extensive efforts by conservationist groups have been made to preserve woodlands from urbanization and agriculture. For example, the woodlands of Northwest Indiana have been preserved as part of the Indiana Dunes.[3][4][5]


United Kingdom

Woodland is used in British woodland management to mean tree-covered areas which arose naturally and which are then managed, while forest is usually used in the British Isles to describe plantations, usually more extensive, or hunting Forests, which are a land use with a legal definition and may not be wooded at all.[6] The term ancient woodland is used in British nature conservation to refer to any wooded land that has existed since 1600, and often (though not always) for thousands of years, since the last Ice Age[6] (equivalent to the American term old-growth forest).

North America

Woodlot is a closely related term in American forest management, which refers to a stand of trees generally used for firewood. While woodlots often technically have closed canopies, they are so small that light penetration from the edge makes them ecologically closer to woodland than forest.


In Australia, a woodland is defined as an area with sparse (10–30%) cover of trees, and an open woodland has very sparse (<10%) cover. Woodlands are also subdivided into tall woodlands, or low woodlands, if their trees are over 30 m (98 ft) or under 10 m (33 ft) high respectively. This contrasts with forests, which have greater than 30% cover by trees.[7]

Oak disease

Sudden oak death (SOD), an oak disease, results from Phytophthora ramorum, a pathogen that thrives in moist, humid conditions.[8] This causal agent attacks the phloem and cambium of oaks, allowing beetle and fungi infestation. It has killed millions of tanoaks since it was discovered in the mid-1990s. SOD does not affect white oaks and drier areas like foothill woodlands, but affects forests and more moist conditions like live oak woodlands and forests, which have been significantly impacted.[8]

Woodland ecoregions

A woodland ecosystem at Morton Arboretum in Illinois
An open woodland in Northern Illinois supporting an herbaceous understory of forbs and grasses

Tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannas, and shrublands

Temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands

Montane grasslands and shrublands

Limber Pine woodland in the Toiyabe Range of central Nevada
  • Afrotropical realm
    • Angolan Scarp savanna and woodlands (Angola)
    • Drakensberg alti-montane grasslands and woodlands (Lesotho, South Africa)
    • Drakensberg montane grasslands, woodlands and forests (Eswatini, Lesotho, South Africa)
    • East African montane moorlands (Kenya, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda)
    • Ethiopian montane grasslands and woodlands (Ethiopia)
  • Palearctic realm

Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and scrub

Mediterranean eucalypt forest in Australia
A dry sclerophyll forest in western Sydney.
  • Australasian realm
    • Coolgardie woodlands (Australia)
    • Mount Lofty woodlands (Australia)
    • Murray-Darling woodlands and mallee (Australia)
    • Naracoorte woodlands (Australia)
    • Southwest Australia woodlands (Australia)
  • Nearctic realm
    • California chaparral and woodlands (United States)
  • Palearctic realm
  • Baccanico (berrywood) an area with a high density of all sorts of berry ("berry" in Italian "bacca") trees.

Deserts and xeric shrublands

See also

  • Agroforestry
  • Ancient woodland
  • Biomass
  • Biomass (ecology)
  • Bioproduct
  • Biosphere
  • Boreal forest
  • Canopy (biology)
  • Clearcutting
  • Close to nature forestry
  • Cloud forest
  • Chase (land)
  • Deforestation
  • Dendrology
  • Dendrometry
  • Ecological succession
  • Forest dynamics
  • Forest management
  • Forest migration
  • Forest pathology
  • Forestry Commission
  • History of the forest in Central Europe
  • Illegal logging
  • Intact forest landscape
  • Jungle (terrain)
  • Kelp forest (A forest made mostly if not entirely of Kelp; an underwater forest)
  • List of countries by forest area
  • List of old-growth forests
  • List of superlative trees
  • List of tree genera
  • List of trees and shrubs by taxonomic family
  • Lists of trees of the world
  • Natural environment
  • Natural landscape
  • Old-growth forest (ancient forest, virgin forest, primary forest)
  • Orchard
  • Permaforestry
  • Plantation (forestry)
  • Rainforest
  • REDD-plus
  • Royal Forestry Society
  • Silviculture
  • Subalpine forest
  • Taiga
  • Temperate broadleaf and mixed forests
  • Temperate coniferous forests
  • Tree
  • Tree allometry
  • Tree farm
  • Tropical rainforest
  • Tropical and subtropical coniferous forests
  • Tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests
  • Wildcrafting
  • Wilderness
  • Woodland management


  1. "Definition of Woodland". Lexico. Retrieved 2020-01-15.
  2. "Woodland definition and meaning". Collins English Dictionary. Retrieved 2020-01-15.
  3. Smith, S.; Mark, S. (2006). "Alice Gray, Dorothy Buell, and Naomi Svihla: Preservationists of Ogden Dunes". The South Shore Journal. 1. Archived from the original on 2012-09-13. Retrieved 2012-06-11.
  4. Smith, S.; Mark, S. (2009). "The Historical Roots of the Nature Conservancy in the Northwest Indiana/Chicagoland Region: From Science to Preservation". The South Shore Journal. 3. Archived from the original on 2016-01-01. Retrieved 2015-11-22.
  5. Smith, S.; Mark, S. (2007). "The cultural impact of a museum in a small community: The Hour Glass of Ogden Dunes". The South Shore Journal. 2. Archived from the original on 2012-11-30. Retrieved 2012-06-11.
  6. Rackham, Oliver (2006). Woodlands (New Naturalist 100). London: HarperCollins. ISBN 9780007202447.
  7. "A simplified look at Australia's vegetation". Information about Australia's Flora: The Australian Environment. Canberra: Australian National Botanic Gardens and Centre for Australian National Biodiversity Research. 24 December 2015. Retrieved 15 February 2017.
  8. Mooney & Zavaleta (2016). Ecosystems of California. University of California Press, Oakland. p. 515.
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