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Adapting to climate change

posted on October 16, 2017

Sylva Foundation CEO Gabriel Hemery reports on significant progress made in bringing the English forestry sector together to ensure that forestry practice, and our trees and forests, will adapt effectively to climate change.

UKFS and climate change adaptation

UKFS and climate change adaptation

The challenges we face in the light of climate change are familiar to us all, in every area of society. In relation to our trees and forests, and within the forestry sector, it is well-accepted that we need to take action to adapt to a changing climate. The UKFS (see box right) clearly articulates key measures we should be implementing, but how well are we meeting the challenge?

Willingness and Evidence

Two seminal moments during 2015 kick-started positive action relating to climate change adaptation in England. The first was the signing of the Climate Change Accord, ‘A call for resilient forests, woods and trees’, by more than 30 organisations. It states:

“We believe that it is necessary to act now to provide a secure future for our forests, woods and trees, that significant changes are required to widely-accepted and practiced systems of management to make them resilient, and we are committed to help realise the vision set out in this Accord.”

British Woodlands Survey 2015 report

British Woodlands Survey 2015 report

The second moment was the response by 1,500 stakeholders to a national survey concerning ‘awareness, action and aspiration among Britain’s forestry community relating to climate change’. Responses to the 2015 British Woodlands Survey indicated that the resilience of the UK’s forests is currently poor, although there are a number of positive aspects which could be built upon. The report concluded that collaboration across the sector was required, with responsibilities shared between the many interests. It also identified that risks need to be more clearly communicated to stakeholders, together with firmer, tailored, guidance on addressing these risks.

Together these two moments secured both the willingness to collaborate strategically, and the evidence necessary to measure progress towards meeting the adaptation measures in the UKFS. The next step was to build on these by agreeing what actions needed to be taken.

Taking action

A small group of interested parties came together under the auspices of the ‘Forestry and Climate Change Working Group’ (FCCWG). During 2016 the FCCWG started working towards an Action Plan for the forestry sector. It has been following a simple five-step approach:

  1. What should we be doing to support adaptation to climate change?    UKFS Adaptation Factors
  2. How do our actions measure up?    British Woodlands Survey 2015
  3. What is being done currently?    Organisations submit evidence to FCCWG during 2016/17
  4. What could we do better (or less of)?
  5. Priorities: what we need to do, by whom, by when?

 

Steps 1-3 formed the basis of a Draft Action Plan (see Read More), yet to address the important steps of what we should improve, and our priorities for taking action, it was necessary to convene a stakeholder workshop. At a meeting held on 11th October 2017—hosted by Forest Research at Alice Holt Lodge—senior representatives from 24 organisations (see box) gathered to devise strategies to tackle steps 4 and 5.

With thanks to delegates representing:

BIFOR, Confor, Deer Initiative, Egger, Euroforest, Forest of Marston Vale, Forest Research, Forestry Commission England, Forest Enterprise England, Future Trees Trust, Grown in Britain, Institute of Chartered Foresters, Lockhart Garratt, Martin Glynn, National Forest, National Trust, Natural England, Royal Forestry Society, Small Woods, Sylva Foundation, Tubex, Tilhill Forestry, Woodland Heritage, Woodland Trust.

After an opening address by Forestry Commission Chairman Sir Harry Studholme, an introduction to the FCCWG by its Chairman Simon Lloyd (Chief Executive, Royal Forestry Society), and an overview of the changes ahead from James Morison (Climate Change Science Group Leader, Forest Research), delegates were soon hard at work. Gabriel Hemery and Gill Petrokofsky, both from Sylva Foundation, managed the café-style brainstorming. Small groups tackled each of the 18 UKFS factors in turn, identifying priorities for action over the next five years.

Preparing for the next brainstorm session. Photo Gail Atkinson.

Preparing for the next brainstorm session. Photo Gail Atkinson.

 

Next steps

Over the next few months the FCCWG will be reviewing the outcomes of the October workshop. We aim to publish, in early 2018, an Action Plan for Forestry and Climate Change Adaptation. We intend this to be a rolling five-year plan, which will be reviewed annually to assess how well the sector is progress in meeting the agreed actions. Given the degree of commitment shown by organisations to date, we are confident that the actions will be widely adopted and responsibilities shared among stakeholders.

The FCCWG is keen to hear from those who may be interested in being actively involved in its work. In particular, we are aware that the interests of tree nurseries, timber processors, and urban forestry are under-represented.

Ultimately, we are hopeful that the unprecedented collaboration across the sector, together with the sound evidence behind its collective action, will help ensure that the Action Plan is embraced by forestry policy-makers, will influence the commissioning of relevant research, and will empower practitioners to take action.

Read more:

Dr Gabriel Hemery FICFor is Chief Executive of Sylva Foundation, and a member of the Forestry and Climate Change Working Group.


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Forest reproductive material and climate change

posted on March 9, 2016

Forest owners, managers and policy-makers may remain unaware of the potential that the use of forest genetic resources offers for facilitating the adaptation of forests to climate change. We summarise the latest guidelines for foresters in England.

Forestry Horizons Occasional Paper, No.1

Forestry Horizons Occasional Paper, No.1

A working group of European Forest Genetic Programme (EUFORGEN) recently considered the use and transfer of forest reproductive materials or FRM in the context of the challenges of climate change. They examined scientific research on provenance and adaptation, including several case studies of transfer, the existing regulatory framework and recent policy developments, guidelines on FRM transfer and their scientific basis, and future challenges and opportunities.

Forestry Commission England asked the Forestry Horizons think-tank to consider this evidence and highlight practical information of importance to foresters. With the addition of specific geographic and policy advice the paper has been made particularly relevant to the forestry sector in England.

You can view the paper in the Forestry Horizons online library, where it can be downloaded for free.


Citation:

Hemery, G. (2016). Use and transfer of forest reproductive material in England in the context of climate change. Forestry Horizons Occasional Paper, No.1. 5pp. www.forestryhorizons.eu ISSN 2053-3241

 


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Reflections on resilient woodlands

posted on December 3, 2015

Following the successful Royal Forestry Society and Woodland Trust conference in October, on the theme of resilient woodlands, the organisers have released a short film featuring some of the speakers, including Sylva’s CEO Gabriel Hemery.

Remarking about resilience, and reflecting on the fact that the majority (72%) of woodlands in the UK are owned privately, Gabriel said:

“It’s not really about what we think, as those who work in the environmental sector or for government, it’s actually about those who own and care for our forests.”

 


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Survey deadline extended

posted on September 17, 2015
British Woodlands Survey 2015

British Woodlands Survey 2015

We have received a fantastic response to our national survey on woodland resilience and environmental change. By popular demand we have extended the deadline until next week. If you haven’t already done so, please do try and find the time to air your views and opinions about this important subject. Thank you.

Visit: www.sylva.org.uk/bws

Headline results from the survey will be announced at a conference to be held in Birmingham on October 1st— Resilient Woodlands: meeting the challenges. Places are still available.  A full programme and booking details can be found here.


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National survey featured on BBC Radio

posted on September 11, 2015

The British Woodlands Survey — this year exploring adaptation to environmental change — has featured on BBC Radio 4 Farming Today.

Gabriel Hemery interview, BBC Radio 4 Farming Today

Gabriel Hemery (centre) and Nigel Fisher being interviewed by Ruth Sanderson at the University of Oxford’s Wytham Woods for BBC Radio 4 Farming Today, September 2015

Sylva CEO Gabriel Hemery arranged for the programme to visit the University of Oxford’s Wytham Woods, perhaps one of the most studied woodlands in the UK. It was an ideal location to discuss the subject of environmental change and how woodland owners can respond, especially given the breadth of research underway in the woodland.

BBC Radio 4 Farming Today

BBC Radio 4 Farming Today. Click to Listen Again.

Conservator Nigel Fisher joined Gabriel for a lively discussion about Wytham Woods, where Nigel revealed their visionary 100 year plan, together with approaches to immediate issues such as the inevitable arrival of ash dieback disease in the county.

You can listen to the programme again here.

If you haven’t already done so, please do try and find the time (15-20 minutes) to complete the survey:

Take the survey


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Tree nursery builds own reservoir to combat climate warming

posted on August 27, 2015

Environmental change ‒ meaning any change or disturbance of the environment caused by human influences and/or natural ecological processes ‒ seems to be impacting Britain’s trees and forests with increasing frequency and severity.

Oakover Nurseries reservoir

Oakover Nurseries reservoir

The changing climate has already required Oakover Nurseries, a tree nursery based in south-east England, to take adaptation measures. Manager Brian Fraser explained:

“Three years ago we increased our field irrigation capacity by investing in a new five million gallon reservoir. The idea being that this would enable us to better manage drier springs and drought conditions by applying water when the plants require it to support continued plant growth.”

  • What do you think about environmental change?
  • Have you been affected by environmental change?
  • What are you doing about making our trees and forests more resilient to environmental change?

PLEASE TAKE THE SURVEY!

A national survey is aiming is to help understand progress in awareness and actions in adapting to environmental change among woodland owners and managers (including agents), tree nursery businesses, and forestry professionals.

The information gathered will be used by organisations, policy makers and researchers to help improve the resilience of the nation’s forests. The results will inform the government’s National Adaptation Programme.

British Woodlands Survey 2015The British Woodlands Survey 2015 on Resilience is supported by a very wide number of partners, with funding provided by the Forestry Commission and the Woodland Trust. It is hosted and co-ordinated by the Sylva Foundation.

The survey is live from July 31st to September 15th 2015. Take the survey: www.sylva.org.uk/bws


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Thousands of broadleaved trees planted to create fire breaks

posted on August 26, 2015

Environmental change ‒ meaning any change or disturbance of the environment caused by human influences and/or natural ecological processes ‒ seems to be impacting Britain’s trees and forests with increasing frequency and severity.

Swinley Forest fire (c) Ian Emery.

Swinley Forest fire in May 2011. Photo (c) Ian Emery. www.flickr.com/photos/mrianemery

In May 2011 a devastating forest fire killed Corsican pine trees across 110 hectares in Swinley Forest, Berkshire. Dozens of local residents had to flee, while owners Forestry Commission England were faced with the clear up and replanting costs. Forestry Commission forest fire expert Rob Gazzard says that:

“We since planted in about 65,000 broadleaved trees, using a mixture of oak and sweet chestnut to form fire belts, formed by fire-resilient species.”

  • What do you think about environmental change?
  • Have you been affected by environmental change?
  • What are you doing about making our trees and forests more resilient to environmental change?

PLEASE TAKE THE SURVEY!

A national survey is aiming is to help understand progress in awareness and actions in adapting to environmental change among woodland owners and managers (including agents), tree nursery businesses, and forestry professionals.

The information gathered will be used by organisations, policy makers and researchers to help improve the resilience of the nation’s forests. The results will inform the government’s National Adaptation Programme.

British Woodlands Survey 2015The British Woodlands Survey 2015 on Resilience is supported by a very wide number of partners, with funding provided by the Forestry Commission and the Woodland Trust. It is hosted and co-ordinated by the Sylva Foundation.

The survey is live from July 31st to September 15th 2015.

Take the survey: www.sylva.org.uk/bws


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Woodland owner supports research into alternative species resistant to tree-killing disease

posted on August 25, 2015
William Theed's conifers field trial

William Theed’s conifer field trial

Environmental change ‒ meaning any change or disturbance of the environment caused by human influences and/or natural ecological processes ‒ seems to be impacting Britain’s trees and forests with increasing frequency and severity.

Following the first reported UK outbreak of Phytophthora ramorum on his estate, Somerset woodland owner William Theed took the lead in supporting research into alternative species resistant to the disease. Mr Theed says:

“After felling most of the Japanese larch, we replanted areas with three conifer species resistant to the pathogen, selecting specific sources we thought would grow well in our woodland.”

  • What do you think about environmental change?
  • Have you been affected by environmental change?
  • What are you doing about making our trees and forests more resilient to environmental change?

PLEASE TAKE THE SURVEY!

A national survey is aiming is to help understand progress in awareness and actions in adapting to environmental change among woodland owners and managers (including agents), tree nursery businesses, and forestry professionals.

The information gathered will be used by organisations, policy makers and researchers to help improve the resilience of the nation’s forests. The results will inform the government’s National Adaptation Programme.

British Woodlands Survey 2015The British Woodlands Survey 2015 on Resilience is supported by a very wide number of partners, with funding provided by the Forestry Commission and the Woodland Trust. It is hosted and co-ordinated by the Sylva Foundation.

The survey is live from July 31st to September 15th 2015.

Take the survey: www.sylva.org.uk/bws


Comments (0)

Environmental change: has it impacted you, what actions are you taking, what are your opinions?

posted on August 20, 2015
British Woodlands Survey 2015

Read more and Take the Survey

A national survey is aiming is to help understand progress in awareness and actions in adapting to environmental change among woodland owners and managers (including agents), tree nursery businesses, and forestry professionals. So far over 750 people have responded from across Britain, yet we are keen to receive more views and opinions.

If you have interest in this important subject, please take the survey at:

www.sylva.org.uk/bws

Environmental change may mean any change or disturbance of the environment caused by human influences and/or natural ecological processes. As such the survey will be exploring climate change, pests, pathogens, flooding, wind and fire, and will be seeking to explore how resilient our forests are to change. The information gathered will be used by organisations, policy makers and researchers to help improve the resilience of the nation’s forests.

The British Woodlands Survey 2015 on Resilience is supported by a very wide number of partners, with funding provided by the Forestry Commission and the Woodland Trust. It is hosted and co-ordinated by the Sylva Foundation.  The survey remains open until September 15th.

PLEASE SHARE THIS WITH ANYONE YOU THINK MAY BE INTERESTED


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A brave new world for woodland managers

posted on January 15, 2015

A report published today demonstrates that private forestry holds the balance of power in meeting the challenges of environmental change. Woodland managers will need courage to make forward-looking decisions to ensure our woodlands can thrive in future. Nine out of ten woodland managers have experienced environmental change in recent years, yet less than half believe the UK’s forests will be affected in future.

British Woodlands Survey 2015 report

British Woodlands Survey 2015 report. Click to access.

At the historic COP21 climate talks in Paris the world came together and agreed to reduce the effects of climate change. Our woodlands and the products they produce play a significant role in the balance of greenhouse gases, for example by storing carbon, while also providing many benefits for people and wildlife. However, unless our woodlands are able to adapt to environmental change — which includes not only surviving in a warming climate, but also coping with threats from pests and diseases, fire and flooding — then none of these benefits will arise.

Our trees and woodlands need to be resilient or be able to ‘bounce back better’ in the face of threats from environmental change. Fortunately we have a forestry standard for the UK (the UKFS) that is recognised globally as exemplary. This includes 18 key guidelines that aim to ensure that our woodlands are able to adapt to environmental change. If woodlands are managed according to these guidelines then we could have some confidence that UK forestry is well-prepared for environmental change. Examples might include anticipating a warmer climate by choosing the best species to plant for future conditions, or by taking actions to limit the spread of pests and diseases. But are woodland owners and managers aware of their vital role in helping the UK respond to environmental change?

Woodlands cover 13% of the UK’s land area and almost three quarters of this (2,283,000 ha; Forestry Commission 2015) is privately owned. This means that the actions of private woodland owners and managers, rather than public bodies such as the Forestry Commission, are likely to have the greatest effect both on the vitality of our woodlands, and on any contribution we can make to mitigating the effects of climate change. However, questions have never been asked of woodland owners and managers about their awareness, actions or aspirations relating to environmental change, or how well they may be following the guidelines of the UKFS.

Earlier in 2015 a group of ten leading forestry and woodland organisations collaborated to run a national survey to address these questions; exploring awareness, action and aspiration relating to environmental change among private woodland owners and managers, and forestry professionals. The research was funded by Forestry Commission England, Sylva Foundation, University of Oxford and the Woodland Trust. Today the main report of the the survey is published.

The survey attracted responses from 1509 people including: 827 private woodland owners; 182 forestry agents; 235 other tree and forestry professionals (e.g. NGO staff, forestry contractors); and 19 tree nursery businesses. Responses were received from across the whole of the UK: most private woodland owners were located in England, while agents proportionally represented more properties than owners in Scotland and Wales. The respondents represented an area of woodland, managed by owners or their agents, covering 247,891 ha; equal to 11% of all privately-owned woodlands in the UK.

Writing in the Foreword, Chairman of the Forestry Commission, Sir Harry Studholme, commented:

“For the first time, we have on record the ‘voice’ of more than one and a half thousand woodland owners and managers. This is critical as, if we want to make real change on the ground, this will have to be done by landowners and managers themselves. The results tell us that there is much work to do, with little progress seen on implementing adaptation to date. It is, however, pleasing to see that thought is being given to climate change and resilience.”

Lead author of the report, Chief Executive of the Sylva Foundation, Dr Gabriel Hemery, said:

“Whilst there were some positive indicators of progress in the forestry sector, it is clear that current pest and disease outbreaks are dominating the resilience agenda, with less thought given to the longer term effects of environmental change. I believe that woodland owners and managers may not be aware of the magnitude of change that is predicted.”

He continued: “I am deeply concerned that only a small majority of woodland owners believed that climate change would impact the UK’s forests in future, and by the high degree of uncertainty expressed about this. Making improvements to our communications with woodland owners and managers must now be an overwhelming and urgent priority.”

“It is clear that some brave decisions will need to be made by individual woodland owners and managers, as well as the forestry sector as a whole, if our woodlands are to thrive long into the future.”

Reflecting on the report, Mike Townsend, Principal Advisor – Conservation, at the Woodland Trust said:

“It’s clear from the results of this survey that Government, its agencies, and those in the private and voluntary sector who work with woodland owners, must provide clear advice and practical help to ensure trees and woods and the wildlife they support are able to adapt to climate change, threats from pests and pathogens and other environmental change. We need a much higher proportion of woodland under some form of considered woodland management, and action across all sectors of the forest industry to ensure the UK’s trees and woods are able to adapt and thrive.”

Results from the survey will be used by the collaborating group of organisations to develop an Action Plan. Earlier in 2015, the same organisations agreed to work together, and more widely, to prepare for environmental change by signing a Climate Change Accord (see below).

Summary of main findings:

  1. Overall, implementation of the UKFS good forestry practice requirements for climate change adaptation is currently low.
  2. High awareness among woodland stewards of environmental change impacts may provide new opportunities to engage with woodland managers, particularly if focussed around issues of direct and local relevance.
  3. Professionals and agents were generally more aware and active in implementing adaptation measures than owners, indicating that existing sources of information and outreach activities among these groups are effective.
  4. Lack of information and advice available to woodland owners and managers to help them respond to existing and emerging threats surfaced as a key issue. A number of owners expressed a view that subjects covered by the survey were too technical. Existing assumptions concerning comprehension and knowledge of adaptation and resilience may be unrealistic.
  5. A dearth of contingency plans among owners and managers to deal with major events such as fire, pest and disease outbreaks, and extreme weather, is of considerable concern.
  6. Low awareness of climate projections for their locality, together with lack of knowledge of soils, means that most woodland stewards are unaware of the potential impacts of environmental change. Most owners have not reviewed species suitability under projected climatic conditions and are therefore unaware of the need to, and potential for, improving the resilience of their woodland.
  7. Uncertainty around the concept of provenance/origin, improved planting stock and genetic diversity points to a requirement for improvements in education and the communication of scientific and practical evidence.
  8. Low levels of awareness and action in relation to biosecurity among owners, which was only marginally better among professional foresters, suggests that there is a need to review whether current guidance on biosecurity and risk assessment is appropriate and provides directions for the design and communication of predictive modelling.
  9. Targeted funding to support actions which might benefit the resilience of woodlands, in particular pest (vertebrate and invertebrate) management and control, would be highly beneficial.
  10. Many of the actions for increasing resilience will flow from good management planning and levels of understanding of the issues, both of which appear to be insufficient. The high number of woodlands without a management plan will undermine attempts to improve resilience.

 


Further Information

About the British Woodlands Survey:
The British Woodlands Survey (BWS) gathers evidence about the UK’s woodlands and those who care for them. It aims to provide a voice for private woodland owners and forestry professionals, and an evidence base on which future policies and practice can be developed. BWS2015 is the third survey in the series. The British Woodlands Survey is co-ordinated by the Sylva Foundation within its think-tank Forestry Horizons.

Download full report of BWS2015:
The report is available free to download at: www.sylva.org.uk/forestryhorizons/bws2015

Report citation:    
Hemery, G., Petrokofsky, G., Ambrose-Oji, B., Atkinson, G., Broadmeadow, M., Edwards, D., Harrison, C., Lloyd, S., Mumford, J., O’Brien, L., Reid, C., Seville, M., Townsend, M., Weir, J., and Yeomans, A., (2015). Awareness, action and aspiration among Britain’s forestry community relating to environmental change: Report of the British Woodlands Survey 2015. www.sylva.org.uk/forestryhorizons/bws2015

Partners:
The 2015 survey was supported by an Advisory Group comprising representatives of Climate Ready, Confor, Country Land & Business Association, Forestry Commission England, Forest Research, Natural England, Royal Forestry Society, Sylva Foundation, University of Oxford, and Woodland Trust.

Climate Change Accord:
Over 30 organisations with an interest in UK forestry signed the 2015 Climate Change Accord which states:

“We believe that it is necessary to act now to provide a secure future for our forests, woods and trees, that significant changes are required to widely-accepted and practiced systems of management to make them resilient, and we are committed to help realise the vision set out in this Accord.”

 


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