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Progress Towards Climate Change Actions

posted on September 6, 2019
Forestry Climate Change Action Plan progress report 2019

Forestry Climate Change Action Plan progress report 2019

Today, a progress report of the Forestry Climate Change Action Plan is published to coincide with a seminar held at the Confor Woodland Show.

Overall, there is some evidence of progress since the plan was published last year, but equally it is clear that most actions are still underway. In the year since publication, a series of important national and international reports have strengthened the need for action, including:

  • the United Nations IPCC Special Report citing 12 years to avert a ‘climate change catastrophe’
  • the Met Office UK climate change projections (UKCP18)
  • the UK Committee of Climate Change advice to Government
  • Government’s amended Climate Change Act (2008)
  • the IPCC Special Report on Climate Change on land management

Sylva Foundation CEO, Dr Gabriel Hemery, who has helped spearhead the whole initiative from its inception, said:

“Although some progress is being made, clearly the forestry sector is moving too slowly and with inadequate support, to make the step changes required to deal with the climate crisis. In particular, I urge government to review progress and consider how this work could be resourced.”

Download the report

 


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Oxfordshire Ash Summit

posted on June 11, 2019

oXaSHOn 22nd May, a group of stakeholders with an interest in ash dieback in Oxfordshire, gathered together at the Sylva Wood Centre in south Oxfordshire. The meeting was convened by Sylva Foundation to consider the risks, impacts, and communication issues relating to ash dieback.

Introductory talks were made by Nick Mottram (Oxfordshire County Council), Gabriel Hemery (Sylva Foundation), Rob Coventry (Forestry Commission), and Louise Hill (Oxford University). Afterwards, the main business of the day followed, with a series of sessions during which groups considered three key areas in turn, each building on a previous iteration:

  1. Risks
  2. Environmental Impacts
  3. Communications

The whole process is aiming to co-ordinate an effective response in to ash dieback Oxfordshire and ultimately to foster a sustainable treescape. We will be building on the experiences of three other English counties that have made significant progress in rallying round the cause of ash dieback (Devon, Leicestershire, and Kent), and consider the action plan template provided by the Tree Council. Links to these and other documents are included in the meeting minutes (see below).

Oxfordshire Ash Summit

Oxfordshire Ash Summit, Sylva Wood Centre, 22nd May 2019

The main outcome of the meeting was an agreement to reconvene in the autumn to progress collaboration and possible development of an Ash Dieback Action Plan for the county. A full minute of the meeting, including links to various documents which can be downloaded, is available to download here

The Oxfordshire Ash Workshop was funded by Oxfordshire County Council.

Category: FORESTRY, SCIENCE
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Ash dieback is predicted to cost £15 billion in Britain

posted on May 6, 2019

A research paper of considerable importance has been published today, which estimates the cost of ash dieback in Britain to be £15 billion. Sylva Foundation took a central role in the work, the research being led by Oxford-Sylva scholar Dr Louise Hill while she completed her DPhil at the University of Oxford under the Oxford-Sylva Graduate Scholarship programme (now sadly lapsed due to lack of funding). Sylva Foundation CEO Dr Gabriel Hemery acted as an external supervisor for Dr Hill, and is a co-author of the paper.


A team of researchers from the University of Oxford, Fera Science, Sylva Foundation and the Woodland Trust has calculated the true economic cost of Ash dieback – and the predictions, published today in Current Biology, are staggering:

  • The total cost of Ash dieback to the UK is estimated to be £15 billion
  • Half of this (£7 billion) will be over the next 10 years
  • The total cost is 50 times larger than the annual value of trade in live plants to and from Britain, which is the most important route by which invasive plant diseases enter the country
  • There are 47 other known tree pests and diseases that could arrive in Britain and which may cost an additional £1 billion or more

The predicted costs arise from clearing up dead and dying trees and in lost benefits provided by trees, e.g. water and air purification and carbon sequestration. The loss of these services is expected to be the biggest cost to society, while millions of ash trees also line Britain’s roads and urban areas, and clearing up dangerous trees will cost billions of pounds.

Dr Louise Hill, researcher at Plant Sciences at the University of Oxford and lead author of the study, said:

‘The numbers of invasive tree pests and diseases are increasing rapidly, and this is mostly driven by human activities, such as trade in live plants and climate change. Nobody has estimated the total cost of a tree disease before, and we were quite shocked at the magnitude of the cost to society. We estimate the total may be £15 billion – that’s a third more than the reported cost of the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in 2001. The consequences of tree diseases for people really haven’t been fully appreciated before now.’

Dr Nick Atkinson, senior conservation advisor for the Woodland Trust and co-author of the paper, said:

‘When Ash dieback first entered the country, no one could have fully predicted the devastating impact it would have on our native habitats. To see how this has also affected our economy speaks volumes for how important tree health is, and that it needs to be taken very seriously. It is clear that to avoid further economic and ecological impacts, we need to invest more in plant biosecurity measures. This includes better detection, interception and prevention of other pests and diseases entering the country. We need to learn from past mistakes and make sure our countryside avoids yet another blow.’

The scientists say that the total cost could be reduced by replanting lost ash trees with other native trees, but curing or halting the disease is not possible. They advise that the government’s focus now has to be on preventing introductions of other non-native diseases to protect our remaining tree species.

Recommendations:

  • A nationwide replanting scheme could reduce the overall cost by £2.5 billion, by ensuring that lost ecosystem services are replaced
  • Greater focus on and investment in biosecurity and sourcing of safe plant material is needed to keep new diseases out
  • Introduce far tighter controls on imports of all live plants for planting, as this is the largest pathway through which tree diseases are introduced

Background:

Ash dieback is a fungal disease, originally from Asia, which is lethal to Europe’s native ash trees. It was first found in Britain in 2012 and is thought to have been brought to the UK years earlier on infected imported ash trees. It is expected to kill 95-99% of ash trees in Britain.

 

Read the full paper here:     www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(19)30331-8

Paper DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2019.03.033

 

ENDS

For more information or to request images, please contact the University of Oxford press office at ruth.abrahams@admin.ox.ac.uk or 01865 280730.

Or the Woodland Trust press office at HollieAnderson@woodlandtrust.org.uk or 01476 581121


Notes to editors

The University of Oxford has been placed number 1 in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings for the third year running, and at the heart of this success is its ground-breaking research and innovation. The university is world-famous for research excellence and home to some of the most talented people from across the globe. Their work helps the lives of millions, solving real-world problems through a huge network of partnerships and collaborations. The breadth and interdisciplinary nature of its research sparks imaginative and inventive insights and solutions.

Sylva Foundation is an environmental charity working to bring trees and people closer together. It formed the Oxford-Sylva Graduate Scholarship, which co-funded lead author Dr Louise Hill, to foster a robust tree and forest resource in the face of environmental change. It has played a lead role in developing a climate change action plan for Britain’s forests. www.sylva.org.uk

The Woodland Trust is the largest woodland conservation charity in the UK. It has over 500,000 supporters. It wants to see a UK rich in native woods and trees for people and wildlife. The Trust has three key aims:  i) protect ancient woodland which is rare, unique and irreplaceable, ii) restoration of damaged ancient woodland, bringing precious pieces of our natural history back to life, iii) plant native trees and woods with the aim of creating resilient landscapes for people and wildlife. Established in 1972, the Woodland Trust now has over 1,000 sites in its care covering over 22,500 hectares. Access to its woods is free.

Fera Science Limited, formerly the Food and Environment Research Agency, is a joint private/public sector venture between Capita plc and Defra. Using original thinking applied to support sustainable global food security our vision is to support our partners to respond to the challenges ahead through original thinking and world-class science. Fera turns expertise and innovation into ways to support and develop a sustainable food chain, a healthy natural environment, and to protect the global community from biological and chemical risks.

This work was partially funded by the Department for the Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs.


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Creating a marketplace for ecosystem services

posted on March 7, 2019

Over the last five years Sylva Foundation has been collaborating with departments at the University of Oxford to create a marketplace for ecosystem services. The Naturetrade project was funded by the EU’s Life programme. The project has now come to a close and the project consortium is keen to hear from current and potential users about the online marketplace. Please read on to find out more and how to take the survey.

Naturetrade homepage

Naturetrade homepage

We are now ready to test it on a wider audience of land managers and businesses with an interest in supporting sustainability. Your feedback on the mapping tool will be of help to us in developing ideas to take this forward from a demonstration project to a useable tool that will help supplement finance schemes aimed at preventing the loss of ecologically-diverse land in Europe.
We have prepared a very short survey that is split into two parts: (a) questions to establish what your relationship to land management in Europe is; and (b) feedback on the tool. We invite you to test the mapping capability of NaturEtrade and its potential to assess the ecosystem services of your land, or to test the possibility of finding land on the system that you can sponsor via a contract for maintaining ecosystem services. Two small caveats: we demonstrate how money can be exchanged via contracts to maintain ecosystem services, but no monetary transactions are being processed during this demonstration phase; and land parcels already published on the demonstration site are either taken directly from the UK Land Registry or have been hand-drawn in workshops. We do not own these properties.

Take part in the survey


Read more about Naturetrade

NaturEtrade is web-based mapping tool that demonstrates a novel approach to the problem of supporting environmentally-sensitive land stewardship practices in Europe. Land managers can easily and rapidly assess the ecosystem services provided by their land, and then “trade” these services in contracts with businesses who have an interest in supporting sustainable land management.

Land managers are very familiar with Government grants that help them conserve important biological and cultural features of their land, but very little is known about how non-Government incentive schemes might work in practice. This innovative project demonstrates how landowners and businesses in European countries can utilise the tools and technologies we have developed to trade in the commodity ‘ecosystem services’. In our project, the term ‘trade’ may be understood to mean ‘sponsor’ as no property changes hands, but a commitment to maintain the ecosystem services of land registered on NaturEtrade is set up by mutual agreement between two parties.

Working with stakeholders in four different European countries over the last five years, the project has developed a set of tools and technologies that bridges the gap between academic research and policy on ecosystem service provision. The project has been funded by the EU’s LIFE+ programme.

www.naturetrade.ox.ac.uk


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Working together to adapt to a changing climate

posted on September 20, 2018

Actions to address significant gaps in forestry policy, research and practice are necessary to deal with the unprecedented pace and scale of environmental change, say forestry organisations launching a new action plan today at APF Exhibition, the UK’s largest forestry show.

Action plan for climate change adaptation of forests, woods and trees in England

Action plan for climate change adaptation of forests, woods and trees in England

Climate change is threatening the health of trees and woods and requires a co-ordinated response to help them adapt and become resilient to its current and projected impacts. A significant group of public and private organisations have identified 13 priority actions and pledged to work together on them over the next five years.

The “Action plan for climate change adaptation of forests, woods and trees in England” was prepared by the Forestry Climate Change Working Group (FCCWG), which represented the 35 organisations who signed a Forestry Climate Change Accord in 2015. Sylva Foundation took a lead role in supporting the creation of the Climate Change Accord, later running workshops which helped to develop the action plan, and then the drafting of the plan itself. Much of the evidence for the action plan arose from recent British Woodland Surveys, particularly BWS2015, which rely on the goodwill of thousands of private woodland owners, foresters and businesses, who shared information about their awareness, actions, and aspirations.

The 13 priority actions address major gaps in current forestry policy, research and practice and are the result of a rigorous process of consultation carried out over the last three years, and are consistent with Defra’s Tree Health Resilience Strategy published earlier this year. The plan also recognises that, in the face of climate change, many traditional forest and woodland management practices need to be revised. Some of the gaps identified include: lack of woodland management by owners; insufficient diversity of planting stock from nurseries; limited uptake of silvicultural practices which limit risk; and, the need for better education and information.

Launching the plan at the APF Exhibition on behalf of the FCCWG, Sir Harry Studholme, Chair of Forestry Commission England said:

Our forests, woodlands and trees are already facing unprecedented challenges from environmental change and the changes will continue. The impacts of this will alter the ecology, the appearance and the management needs of these woods and forests.  We have to adapt because if we do not the costs will be paid by all of us for generations to come. That is why I welcome the launch of this plan to drive forward a truly collaborative response by the forestry sector. It is a remarkable achievement that such a wide range of organisations have been able to agree actions that should ensure our legacy will be of woodlands resilient to the changes they face.

Gabriel Hemery, Chief Executive of Sylva Foundation, commented:

“So much of our work at Sylva is about creating and using evidence to help others make wise decisions about the future of our trees and woodlands. At a strategic level, little of this counts unless there is significant agreement among all stakeholders about what actions should be taken and by who. It has been a privilege to have supported, and witnessed, the coming together of the forestry sector in such an unprecedented way. We hope the resulting action plan will support positive change in policy, practice, and research over the coming five years and beyond.

 Download the Action Plan (pdf)


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Natural Flood Management ‘reverse’ auction tool piloted

posted on September 19, 2018

During three weeks over the summer, Sylva Foundation helped deliver a unique ‘reverse’ auction to support a range of natural flood management measures in Somerset.

Building on the technologies developed with the University of Oxford’s Long Term Ecology Lab (EU LIFE+ project NaturEtrade), the online auction tool allowed landowners to bid for funding to help deliver a selection of Natural Flood Management (NFM) measures: Maize Management; Grassland Sub-Soiling; Leaky Structures (leaky dams); Hedge Planting; Soil Bunds and Leaky Ponds, and; Hedge Planting on Bunds.

Landowners could select locations on their farm in which they could implement these measures, and the tool enabled them to bid for an amount of funding they considered necessary to deliver these. The lowest, or most competitive, bids – hence a ‘reverse’ auction – would receive funding from Somerset Rivers Authority.

NFM area

The Hills to Levels project area in Somerset, as shown on the Naturetrade NFM website

How did the auction work?

The auction allowed landowners to bid for funding to construct and maintain one, or multiple, NFM measures on their land. To do this, each user could bid for an amount of funding for the bundle of measures they wished to implement. The tool indicated whether their bid was ‘selected’, which meant that it would currently qualify for funding. This could change if other users submitted lower bids (i.e. will implement measures for less money). If a user’s bid changed from ‘selected’ to ‘unselected’, they would be notified via email, and they could then lower their bid if they wished to do so.

NFM dashboard

A screenshot of the dashboard page of the auction website (with dummy data) used by funders to manage the auction.

 

Funding to develop the technology was provided by the Environment Agency, and support for the auction itself was given by the Farm Wildlife Advisory Group, which liaised with landowners on the ground.

Outcomes from the pilot run over the summer are currently being assessed by Environment Agency and partners. Emma Claydon of Environment Agency, said:

“This summer’s pilot online ‘reverse’ auction was a fascinating first attempt at exploring this novel approach to achieving environmental outcomes as well as better value for public money. We will be analysing the outcomes to see how the tool can be improved for future uses.”

Although the auction is now closed, the website is still live, and contains further information about the auction, including FAQs: https://nfmea.sylva.org.uk

 


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Maintaining ecosystem properties after loss of ash in Great Britain

posted on September 5, 2018

The latest research paper arising from work supported under our Oxford-Sylva Graduate Scholarship has been published.

Our scholar Dr Louise Hill, who successfully defended her DPhil thesis earlier this year, researched the ecological consequences of ash dieback disease in Great Britain. The paper is the second peer-reviewed output arising from her work, while one more is in the pipeline which considers the financial impacts of the disease.

Citation:
Hill, L, G Hemery, A Hector, and N Brown. 2018. “Maintaining Ecosystem Properties after Loss of Ash in Great Britain.” Journal of Applied Ecology 00: 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2664.13255.

A figure extracted from Hill et al. 2018

Abstract

  1. Acute outbreaks of pests and disease are increasingly affecting tree populations around the world, causing widespread ecological effects. In Britain, ash dieback Hymenoscyphus fraxineus (Baral et al.) has severe impacts on common ash (Fraxinus excelsior L.) populations, and the emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis Fairmaire) is likely to add to the impact in future. This will cause significant changes to the character and functioning of many ecosystems. However, the nature of these changes and the best approach for conserving ecosystems after ash loss are not clear.
  2. We present a method to locate those areas most ecologically vulnerable to loss of a major tree species (common ash) and identify the resultant damage to distinctive ecosystem properties. This method uses the functional traits of species and their distributions to map the potential degree of change in traits across space and recommend management approaches to reduce the change. An analytic hierarchy process is used to score traits according to ecological importance.
  3. Our results indicate that in some areas of Britain, provision of ash‐associated traits could be reduced by over 50% if all ash is lost. Certain woodland types, and trees outside woodlands, may be especially vulnerable to ash loss. However, compensatory growth by other species could halve this impact in the longer term.
  4. We offer management guidance for reducing ecosystem vulnerability to ash loss, including recommending appropriate alternative tree species to encourage through planting or management in particular areas and woodland types.
  5. Synthesis and applications. The method described in this paper allows spatially explicit assessment of species traits to be used in the restoration of ecosystems for the first time. We offer practical recommendations for the ash dieback outbreak in Britain to help conserve functional traits in ecosystems affected by the loss of ash. This technique is widely applicable to a range of restoration and conservation scenarios and represents a step forward in the use of functional traits in conservation.

Related papers:

Hill, L, A Hector, G Hemery, S Smart, M Tanadini, and N Brown. 2017. “Abundance Distributions for Tree Species in Great Britain: A Two-Stage Approach to Modeling Abundance Using Species Distribution Modeling and Random Forest.” Ecology and Evolution 7 (4): 1043–56. https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.2661.


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Exploring land manager views of payments for ecosystem services, networks and learning

posted on August 13, 2018

We are pleased to have contributed to a report by the Social and Economic Research Group of Forest Research, working also with the University of Oxford, exploring land owner and manager views about ecosystem services. The work is part of ongoing outcomes of the British Woodlands Survey 2017.

There is increasing interest in understanding, valuing and supporting the variety of ecosystem services that woodlands can provide. Land owners and managers can play a key role in the delivery of forest ecosystem services through active woodland management, woodland expansion and woodland creation.

Exploring land manager views of payments for ecosystem services, networks and learning

Ecosystem services

Headline results

Many land managers were not familiar with the term ecosystem services or the concept of payments for ecosystem services. However, they did often recognise that their woodlands could provide a range of benefits to society.

Quantifying forest services and benefits was thought to be particularly difficult in considering the design of any schemes that might provide payment for these services and benefits.

Read more on the Forest Research website

 


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FSC UK Small Woods Project launched

posted on June 11, 2018

We wrote recently about how data collected from the British Woodlands Survey 2017 was informing development of the Forest Stewardship Certification (FSC) for small woodland owners. Today, FSC UK has launched the Small Woods Project. If you’re an owner of a small woodland you may be able to help.

What do stakeholders think of FSC?

In an article published today, Owen Davies from FSC UK wrote:

To date, FSC has not been as successful as we would like in encouraging small woodland owners to seek certification. Owners have told us that their reluctance is due to too much paperwork, complex standard requirements, and high costs. With this initiative we aim to make certification lighter on paperwork, simpler, and cheaper, while still maintaining the credibility that stakeholders expect from FSC, which we hope to achieve through a careful assessment of risks and opportunities for positive change.

Let’s be clear; we intend to be really radical, and to test the limits of the FSC system. We may not end up with a standard that can be used for FSC forest management certification in the UK. But what we learn along the way about just how far we can push risk-based approaches to certification of small woodlands will be of immense value not just in the UK but around the world.

To learn more, you can read a more technical introduction to the project. If you’re really keen and think you have what it takes to be part of the group developing the standard, you can read the full, formal terms of reference.

Read the full article


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What do stakeholders think of FSC?

posted on June 1, 2018

As part of British Woodlands Survey 2017 — whose report was published earlier this year — we were commissioned by FSC UK to ask stakeholders their views about forest certification. We were pleased to see FSC UK publish a summary of the results in the May/June edition of Forest Matters.

FSC-article-2018

FSC UK article in Forest Matters: click to read full article online

Forest Standards Manager of FSC UK, Dr Owen Davies, wrote:

“To attract more woodland owners into certification, it seems that we need to reduce paperwork, simplify standard requirements, and reduce costs, in that order. Of course, these factors are to some degree inter-related. As part of our ongoing work to try to make certification more accessible for smaller woodland owners, and with the support of FSC International’s New Approaches project, FSC UK will shortly be embarking on a project to develop and forest test a radically new standard specifically tailored to such woodlands. We intend to really push the boat out and try something that has never been tried before within the FSC system. While the result may not gain universal acceptance, we hope that the lessons learned will be valuable for FSC not just in the UK but around the world.”

A call will soon go out for members of a standard development group and a consultative forum for this project. Keep an eye on the FSC UK website for updates.


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