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An open woodland in North Lanarkshire, Scotland

A woodland (/ˈwʊdlənd/ ) is, in the broad sense, land covered with woody plants (trees and shrubs),[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). Some savannas may also be woodlands, such as savanna woodland, where trees and shrubs form a light canopy.[3]

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.

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.[4][5][6]


United Kingdom[edit]

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.[7] 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[7] (equivalent to the American term old-growth forest).

North America[edit]

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. North American forests vary widely in their ecology and is greatly dependent on abiotic factors as climate and elevation. Much of the old growth deciduous and pine dominated forests of the eastern United States was harvested for products like lumber, paper pulp, telephone poles, creosote, pitch, and tar.


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.[8]

Woodland ecoregions[edit]

Tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannas, and shrublands[edit]

Miombo woodland in Malawi

Temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands[edit]

A dry sclerophyll woodland in western Sydney.
An open woodland in Northern Illinois supporting an herbaceous understory of forbs and grasses

Montane grasslands and shrublands[edit]

Limber Pine woodland in the Toiyabe Range of central Nevada

Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and scrub[edit]

Mallee woodland with eucalyptuses and melaleucas in Esperance, Western Australia
A cedar woodland in Bsharri, Lebanon

Deserts and xeric shrublands[edit]

Sahel woodland in Mali

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Definition of Woodland". Lexico. Archived from the original on January 15, 2020. Retrieved 2020-01-15.
  2. ^ "Woodland definition and meaning". Collins English Dictionary. Retrieved 2020-01-15.
  3. ^ Smith, Jeremy M.B.. "savanna". Encyclopedia Britannica, 5 Sep. 2016, https://www.britannica.com/science/savanna/Environment. Accessed 8 February 2023.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ a b Rackham, Oliver (2006). Woodlands (New Naturalist 100). London: HarperCollins. ISBN 9780007202447.
  8. ^ "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.

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