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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SilviFuture highlighted in RFS Conifers for Conifers project

posted on November 14, 2014

SilviFuture, a website promoting the use of novel forest species, was featured at this week’s launch of Royal Forestry Society’s Conifers for Colleges project.  Conifers for Colleges highlights the importance of conifers in the UK forestry while promoting research into forest resilience.

Conifers for Colleges provides students attending forestry and woodland management courses, first-hand experience of the tree species that may be needed to ensure that the UK has resilient woodlands and a viable timber industry.  The first trial plots are being planted this autumn at Moulton College, Myerscough College, Plumpton College, Coleg Gwent and Northumberland College.  The data and results will be made freely available to industry via the SilviFuture database so that woodland and forest owners can see what species might grow well on sites comparable to their own. The RFS will also publish the research findings and there will be opportunities for other project partners to do so.

Paul Orsi, Sylva, plants a Serbian spruce (Picea omorika) at Moulton College with Phil Tanner, RFS (right)

Paul Orsi, Sylva, plants a Serbian spruce (Picea omorika) at Moulton College with Phil Tanner, RFS (right)


Category: SilviFuture

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Case studies highlight best practice for forest resilience

posted on September 15, 2014
Climate Change Award 2014 case studies

Climate Change Award 2014 case studies

Following the successful launch by the Royal Forestry Society (RFS) of the Woodland Climate Change Award in 2014, a series of case studies have been released by the RFS. The award was supported by the Sylva Foundation, whose CEO Gabriel Hemery acted as judge and authored the case studies.

The case studies can be downloaded here

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SilviFuture grows

posted on March 14, 2014
SilviFuture coverage March 2014

SilviFuture coverage March 2014

SilviFuture – the network promoting novel forest species – continues to go from strength to strength. The number of records of stands of trees stands at 873 today.

Many of these records have been provided by government research agency Forest Research, supported by Forestry Commission England, Forestry Commission Scotland and Natural Resources Wales. ClimateXChange supported the collection of data in Scotland and a short promotional film (see below).

The project partners are keen that more private woodland owners share information about stands of unusual or novel forest species. Why not visit the website to learn more about the project and how you could help shape a resilient future for Britain’s forests?

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SilviFuture upgraded

posted on March 6, 2014
SilviFuture - a network promoting novel forest species

SilviFuture – a network promoting novel forest species – the frontpage of the upgraded website

SilviFuture marked Climate Week by unveiling a new-look for its free knowledge-sharing database for woodland growers wanting to identify and plant resilient tree species – and has launched an appeal for added data!

SilviFuture, a partnership by Sylva Foundation, Forestry Commission, Forest Research, Silvanus Trust and Royal Forestry Society (RFS), was first piloted in October 2013 and, following feedback from users, has been upgraded and expanded:

  • Details of more than 700 stands of novel species have been added.
  • A traffic light signal to help identify those species where information is urgently required.
  • Facilities for uploading photographs.
  • Additional species.
  • An improved search function, including synonyms.
  • A film, presented by Sylva’s Gabriel Hemery, has also been released and is available on the website’s frontpage.

The partners behind the SilviFuture network are urging woodland growers and managers to check out the information on more than 700 stands of ‘novel’ trees already on the database – and add data from their own stands, so that knowledge can be shared to ensure healthy woodlands and a home-grown timber industry for the future.


Category: SilviFuture
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Share your thoughts and experiences on novel forest tree species

posted on February 20, 2014
SilviFuture - comments

SilviFuture – comments

As part of a number of developments to the SilviFuture network we have added a facility to allow people to share their thoughts and experiences on novel forest tree species.

Commenting tools are provided for each of the 69 species currently listed in the database. The commenting tool is presented on each page dedicated to a specific species, thereby focussing discussion on that species. They are also brought together on a single comments page so that readers can easily view the latest comments from contributors.

We encourage everyone with some experience in growing these species to share it with other woodland owners and managers. Feel free also to share information about a species that you may have read or seen.


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SilviFuture article published

posted on January 9, 2014
SilviFuture article in the Quarterly Journal of Forestry. Click to download from our Forestry Horizons website

SilviFuture article in the Quarterly Journal of Forestry. Click to download from our Forestry Horizons website

An article about the SilviFuture initiative has been published in the Quarterly Journal of Forestry.

Hemery, G., Jinks, R., Lloyd, S., Ralph, J., 2014. SilviFuture: promoting and sharing knowledge of novel forest species. Quarterly Journal of Forestry, 108, 1, 43–47.

We are grateful to the Royal Forestry Society for permission to make this article freely available on our Forestry Horizons website. Visit our library to download the article.

Please visit the SilviFuture website to find out more about the initiative and how to get involved:


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SilviFuture – add your record to 250 others

posted on December 10, 2013


SilviFuture - 250 stands added

SilviFuture – 250 stands added by end November

Following the recent launch of SilviFuture, the number of entries for stands of novel forest species has surpassed 250.

Examples include a stand of Cedar of Lebanon in Dorset, Caucasian silver fir at Kilmun in Scotland, giant redwood in Kent, and Japanese red-cedar in Wales.

If you own or manage a stand of novel forest tree species, please consider adding it to the database so that everyone can learn from your experiences.

We have created a recording sheet that you can take into the forest to help you record the essential information (download).




Category: SilviFuture

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Royal Forestry Society backs SilviFuture

posted on December 3, 2013

The Royal Forestry Society has joined our partnership supporting SilviFuture– an online database promoting and sharing knowledge about novel timber tree species growing in real forestry conditions.

Royal Forestrry Society

Royal Forestry Society

The RFS is also backing a UK-wide drive to ask woodland owners to share useful information on the SilviFuture site on more than 60 lesser known or ‘novel’ tree types, many of which have been growing, almost forgotten, amongst more popular timber trees in private and public woodlands around the country.

RFS Development Director Simon Lloyd says: “With increased challenges to forestry from climate change, pests and disease, it is vital that woodland owners share knowledge about trees species which may prove resilient and become the timber crops of the future.”

The database, created by The Sylva Foundation, The Silvanus Trust, Forest Research and Forestry Commission England, will prove an invaluable tool to foresters looking to decide which species to plant to develop resilient and financially viable woodlands.

A stand of sugi at Brechfa forest garden

A stand of sugi or Japanese red-cedar (Cryptomeria japonica) at Brechfa forest garden. Just one of over 60 species now listed on the online database.

The RFS will be entering data from its Coast Redwoods in Leighton, mid Wales; data on some of the 50 trees species at its Hockeridge and Pancake Woods  on the edge of the Chilterns, and from young new woodlands at Battram in the National Forest where plantings began in 1999. Forest Research, Forest Enterprise England and others are also adding their data.

Simon Lloyd added: “We are urging all our members to do the same, and we are exploring the potential for bursaries that would provide support for forestry students to help private woodland owners add data to the site. This could provide valuable work experience for students and save woodland owners time and effort to record their data.”

As the database grows, foresters and woodland owners will be able to search by species using a range of parameters such as ‘durable timber’ or ‘poor drainage’ plus site data such as altitude, aspect or soil and mensuration data including tree height, dbh or stocking density.

The more data added by landowners and foresters, the more the database will prove of use to us all in the future.

Read More



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SilviFuture – a network for novel forest species is launched

posted on September 12, 2013
SilviFuture - a network promoting novel forest species

SilviFuture – a network promoting novel forest species. Click to visit the website.

A new network established to promote and share knowledge about novel forest species across Britain has been launched today. SilviFuture has been created by a partnership between Forestry Commission, Forest Research, Silvanus Trust and the Sylva Foundation. It aims to help promote information about trees and forest stands of less common or so-called ‘minor’ species.

At its heart is a website and database that enables woodland owners and forestry professionals to add, search and share information about more than seventy tree species, many of which are less well-known or tested in Britain.

It will support:

  • finding and sharing information on the silviculture of novel tree species. Some of these may prove more resilient to a changing climate or pests and diseases, and provide valuable products for future markets.
  • exploring a database to learn about tree growth, stand management, where certain species grow well in the country, and even successes in their marketing. The database combines research data with real-life growing experience.

Information on the growing potential and end uses of these species is provided, together with geographic information on forest locations in Britain. Forest Research have added data to the database, gathered from decades of research in field trials for many of these species. All the data can be interrogated on a web-based database, complete with maps and further information.

The database will be updated continually and can be searched by species or location to allow those thinking of planting new species to fully evaluate the options, and for researchers to see how species are performing across a range of locations. Future developments will include photo uploads and commenting tools.

Woodland owners and forestry professionals are encouraged to register and upload information. The network has been launched today at the Confor woodland show on September 12th at the Royal Forestry Society stand.

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