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What Future for our Iconic Oak?

posted on June 14, 2021

Forest managers and others with an interest in trees are invited to share their knowledge and expertise with a team of researchers who are aiming to discover how declining health is affecting trees across the UK, and to understand views on possible new treatments.

Future Oak project

Future Oak project

The survey is part of the Future Oak research project, led by Bangor University, and is investigating the health of oak trees in the UK. Our native oak species are increasingly under-pressure from a variety of pests, pathogens, and changes to the landscape and climate. The project focuses particularly on Acute Oak Decline (AOD) and will explore the role of micro-organisms in this disease.

The research team believes that without careful study, we will be ill-equipped to meet the challenges our forests face over the next century. Only by understanding both the science of tree response to pests, pathogens, and climate change; and the current management knowledge base and practices can we hope to counter these threats and build the resilience our woodlands require. Research of this nature is critical in developing our understanding of the issues facing oak in the UK, but without the support of Forest Managers its practical application will be limited.

Ultimately, understanding forest manager perspectives is critical to the design and deployment of any solution to tree health problems.

Please take part in the BWS2021

BWS2021

BWS2021


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Pioneering project to safeguard our iconic oaks launched

posted on March 12, 2021

The FUTURE OAK project, comprising scientists at Bangor University, Aberystwyth University, Forest Research and Sylva Foundation, will study how oak microbiomes are affected by environmental change and disease.

FUTURE OAK logo

Visit the Future Oak website

The UK is home to around 170 million oak trees, and more ancient oak trees than the rest of Europe combined. Native oak support over 2000 species of insects, birds, mammals, and fungi, but climate change, human activity, and outbreaks of tree disease are affecting the health of our forests. Acute Oak Decline (or AOD) poses a significant threat to our native oak trees. Trees with AOD are weakened by environmental stresses, like drought, and several different bacteria cause the inner bark tissue to rot. Bark-boring beetles also feed on the inner bark of weakened trees, further increasing bacterial activity. Eventually, the outer bark cracks, releasing fluid from the rotting inner tissue and causing the distinctive stem ‘bleeds’ that are observed on trees affected by AOD.

Like humans, trees have trillions of microbes living on and inside them. This collection of microbes and the part of the plant where they are active is called the ‘microbiome’. Microbiomes are important for plant and animal health – they provide nutrients for growth, regulate immune systems, and protect against pathogens. Beneficial microbes in a tree’s microbiome are essential for fighting diseases.

Prof. James McDonald, the project leader explained:

“The FUTURE OAK project will analyse hundreds of native oaks across Britain to understand which microbes promote health and fight diseases. We’ll then test the ability of these microbes to suppress bacteria which cause disease. This will help us to develop biocontrol treatments for the oak microbiome, to promote healthier trees and suppress the symptoms of AOD. Working with forest managers, we’ll seek to understand how microbiomes fit with established understandings of tree health, and how our research can help.”

Safeguarding our iconic oaks

Prof McDonald added:

“We are delighted to receive funding for this project, and look forward to working with land-owners and forest managers to safeguard our iconic oaks and the ecosystems they provide for future generations.”

Chief Plant Health Officer, Nicola Spence, said:

“It is vital we do all we can to protect our oak trees for future generations. The FUTURE OAK research project will play an important role in finding solutions to make this iconic tree species more resilient. This project is supported by Action Oak – a pioneering, collaborative partnership which is raising funds for ambitious research projects such as FUTURE OAK.”

The research is supported by £1.3M of funding from the Bacterial Plant Diseases programme funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), Defra and Scottish Government and is also supported by Action Oak.

Visit the Future Oak website to find out more


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Help Shape Tree Health Policy

posted on February 12, 2021

If you manage trees in England, whether in an urban or rural setting and at any scale, from large woodlands through to individual trees, we want to hear your views on a range of potential tree health policies and interventions. This is a chance for you to help shape future support from government.

The results of this survey, with other research outputs, will feed into the development of a Tree Health scheme, as part of the government’s Agricultural Transition Plan published on 30 November 2020.

Stakeholder engagement workshop in Somerset led by Sylva Foundation

Stakeholder engagement workshop in Somerset led by Sylva Foundation

This survey builds on recent work exploring tree health issues with expert stakeholders across England. A team from Defra, Forest Research, Sylva Foundation, and the Countryside & Community Research Institute, held a series of workshops with landowners, managers and agents. This survey will test the ideas and principles developed in those workshops.

The survey focusses on four ‘host’ tree species at grave risk of attack by pests or pathogens: ash, larch, spruce, and sweet chestnut. For each of the species, we want you to tell us what blend of regulation, financial support, and advice would deliver the best outcomes. In your response we encourage you to choose any combination of tree species that is relevant to you.

The Tree Health Policy Survey launches formally on 15 February and will remain open for 2 weeks until 1 March.

Please take part: http://resilient-treescapes-survey.sylva.org.uk


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British Woodlands Survey 2020 report published

posted on October 1, 2020

An independent report released today highlights that those who care for woodlands and forests across Britain are increasingly aware of the threats from environmental change, especially drought, wildfires, and pathogens, such as ash dieback and acute oak decline, yet there’s little evidence of action being taken overall to improve woodland resilience.

BWS2020 report

BWS2020 report

The 2020 edition of the British Woodlands Survey, funded by the Forestry Commission and co-ordinated by the Sylva Foundation, attracted the views of 1,055 woodland owners, agents, and forestry professionals, representing 3% of privately-owned woodland in Britain. With environmental change as its main theme, the research team from Sylva Foundation and Forest Research explored awareness, action, and aspiration among the private sector which owns 74% of forested land in Britain.

Hand-in-hand with increasing awareness and observation of environmental threats, the report highlighted concerns that many of those who own or manage woodlands are not actively planning or managing in ways which would make woodlands more resilient in future. For example, a minority of respondents had considered local climate change projections or studied the soils that support their woodlands. A key indicator that an owner or manager has considered threats from environmental change while planning to make a woodland more resilient is having a management plan compliant with UK Forestry Standard. The report’s authors highlighted that a minority (31%) of respondents had a UKFS management plan in place.

Looking to the future, many respondents indicated that they might consider creating new woodlands and planting new hedgerows or agroforestry systems in the longer-term. In the short-term, however, complexities of regulations and bureaucratic grants were seen as significant hurdles preventing more landowners from considering woodland creation. This is a concern given ambitious woodland creation plans to plant 30,000ha of trees across the UK by 2025 (see Defra blog).

The report has been published in time to inform government’s England Tree Strategy and the third Climate Change Risk Assessment, and it will underpin the work of the Forestry and Climate Change working group which oversees the delivery of an action plan promoting adaptation and resilience in England.

The report’s lead author Dr Gabriel Hemery, who is also CEO of the Sylva Foundation, commented:

‘There are a huge number of interesting findings in the report, but if I was to pick one to highlight it would be how we have unearthed a very strong relationship between current activity and future intended actions among land managers. This is significant because it points to the importance of investing more in advocacy and support for those who own or manage our woodlands. The benefits will be realised not only in their woodlands, but by nature and by society as a whole.’

Forestry Commission Chair Sir William Worsley said:

‘This independent report, which we commissioned, highlights how important it is that we continue to nurture our woodlands. They are the cornerstone of a healthy environment and crucial in the fight against climate change. We recognise the challenges that landowners face when making management decisions, and we are committed to working closely with them to support long-term management, ensuring healthy and resilient woodlands for the future.’

Simon Lloyd, Chair of the Forestry and Climate Change Working Group (FCCWG) and CEO of the Royal Forestry Society added:

‘This is an immensely useful report in our work promoting adaptation and resilience in the country’s forests. While there are some positive indications of changes in awareness and behaviour, overall it’s clear that the forestry sector is not doing enough nor reacting quickly enough to combat the climate emergency.’

A series of four online workshops during October organised by the FCCWG and hosted by the Institute of Chartered Foresters (ICF) are being held to help support woodland managers in combating climate change. Attendance online is free to all, including ICF non-members – find out more.

The British Woodlands Survey 2020 report is freely available at: www.sylva.org.uk/bws2020

BWS2020 infographic

BWS2020 infographic


British Woodlands Survey   The British Woodlands Survey (BWS) gathers evidence about Britain’s woodlands and those who care for them. The BWS aims to provide an evidence base on which future policies and practice can be developed. The first British Woodlands Survey was held in 2012 which itself built upon an important series of surveys undertaken by the Department of Land Economy at the University of Cambridge since 1963. The intention was always that a major survey was repeated every five years, while any number of additional surveys on specific themes may be run as required. The British Woodlands Survey is coordinated by Sylva Foundation and run in partnership with a large number of organisations. Summary results are always published in a report and made freely available. Where possible data collected is also used to support peer-reviewed scientific research. For more information visit: www.sylva.org.uk/bws


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British Woodlands Survey 2020 launched

posted on April 24, 2020

The British Woodlands Survey 2020 (BWS2020) has been launched and remains open until the end of June. In this new survey, researchers want to understand awareness, action and aspiration among Britain’s forestry community to environmental change.

BWS2020-logoBWS2020 comes five years after the ground-breaking British Woodlands Survey of 2015 which explored the same themes, and this new survey will allow researchers to explore changes over time. The most recent British Woodland Survey (2017) reached those responsible for managing one-fifth of all UK woodland area, and the results have influenced policy and practice at the highest levels. Researchers aim to reach even more people than in previous surveys, especially landowners, land managers, agents, tree nurseries and businesses who have an interest in our trees and forests.

BWS2020 is run by the Sylva Foundation and this year is funded by the Forestry Commission. Chief Executive of the Sylva Foundation, Dr Gabriel Hemery, said:

“The British Woodland Survey is taken seriously by decision makers among our most influential environmental bodies and organisations. We are always excited by the opportunity the survey provides for working professionals and practitioners to have their say and influence policy and practice.”

FCCWG-logo

The survey is supported by the Forestry and Climate Change Working Group whose 15 members include representatives from Confor, Country Land & Business Association, Defra, Forestry Commission, Forest Research, Future Trees Trust, Institute of Chartered Foresters, Natural England, Pryor and Rickett, Royal Forestry Society, Sylva Foundation, Tilhill, Tree Council, Woodland Heritage and Woodland Trust. The results of the survey will help shape the future agenda for this group.

You can read more and find a link to the survey here: www.sylva.org.uk/bws2020

 


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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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