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Calling woodland owners – help wanted in ash dieback research

posted on March 13, 2014

Sylva Scholar Louise Hill – who is studying the consequences of Chalara ash dieback in British woodlands (read more) – is looking for woodland sites in the south of Britain where she could set up her experiments. If you are a woodland owner, perhaps you could help her?

Louise Hill, Sylva Scholar

Louise Hill, Sylva Scholar

Louise explains:

I am looking for areas of deciduous woods, with ash mixed in to it ideally at a density of around 300 stems/ha (i.e., not an ash monoculture). Within each site I want to set up at least one (ideally two or three) blocks of plots; each block will contain three plots of 25 x 25m, one of which will have 100% of the ash ring-barked, one 50% and on 0% (control). The experiment will look into the effects of loss of ash trees on growth rates of the remaining trees, recruitment of seedlings of other species (ash seedlings will be removed), and also effects on the ground flora. It will also look into any interactions with deer abundance for these effects. I am looking for sites in Oxfordshire, Dorset, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

If you have a suitable site, and are prepared to have some ash trees sacrificed in this way, please contact Louise directly to discuss further. She can be reached at

Read more about the Sylva Scholarship



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Summary of woodland conference at Oxford University

posted on December 2, 2013

2013 – An Extraordinary Year for England’s Woodlands

Sylva’s day course, run in association with the Department of Continuing Education at the University of Oxford, attracted some 35 delegates on Saturday.

Attendees heard how England’s woodlands have provided for mankind’s needs for many centuries, leading to a strong culture of appreciating and using wood, yet in recent decades the care and management of England’s woodlands has declined.  With unprecedented threats from environmental change, pests and diseases, the sustainable management of our woodlands need to be embraced as part of a revitalised wood culture for the 21st Century.

There were some changes in the advertised programme, with two speakers having to pull out for personal reasons, however the alternative speakers provided excellent presentations.

Robin Buxton talk

Robin Buxton talk

The day was introduced by Robin Buxton who provided the evolutionary and global context for the day’s talks. He demonstrated the need to get the balance right between economic and ecological needs, drawing especially upon his experiences of working in Africa.

Gabriel Hemery talk

Gabriel Hemery talk

Gabriel Hemery provided a history of our trees from 1000 A.D. and how they have supported civilisation in this country. His presentation made us think about our intrinsic views and values of nature and how they relate to the trees and woodlands around us.

Alistair Yeomans talk

Alistair Yeomans talk

Alistair Yeomans provided an overview of a what a ‘wood culture’ means and how the forestry community can consider communicating this to wider society. He continued to give an overview of the evolving world of Corporate Social Responsibility and described to the audience the Good Woods project that the Sylva Foundation is currently carrying out with B&Q, BioRegional and Lantern. Alistair presented Dr Derek Nicholls from the Department of Land Economy, University of Cambridge, with a limited edition portrait of the OneOak tree (available to purchase from our online shop) as a token of appreciation for his support in collaborating with Sylva staff in the British Woodlands 2012 survey.

Robert Penn talk

Robert Penn talk

Rob Penn described eloquently the fun and challenges of woodland management. He talked about the making of the BBC4 programme Tales from the Wildwood and its popularity which surprised TV executives. He introduced his latest project following the life of an ash tree, describing meetings with hurley stick makers, furniture makers and wheelwrights. His work literally brings forestry to life by focussing on the many products that we all use and love – introducing sustainable forest management to a general public audience.

Oxford Researchers talks

Oxford Researchers talks

Louise Hill and Jessica Needham reported on the revival of temperate forestry activity at Oxford University. It was great to hear from the new cohort of forest researchers, both Sylva scholars and otherwise. Their talks exemplified the need and importance for sound research that we can convert into effective policy. Both their DPhil research projects are associated with Chalara ash dieback: Louise dealing with the consequences of the disease of ecosystem services such as carbon and biodiversity, Jessica focussing on the pathogen responsible. Their efforts are needed now, more than ever and it was reassuring that forestry research is in such intelligent, dedicated hands.

The New Sylva talk - Gabriel Hemery

The New Sylva talk – Gabriel Hemery

Gabriel Hemery returned to the floor to talk about the making of The New Sylva to be published by Bloomsbury in 2014. This perhaps will be the most visually compelling version of a wood culture. One that will reach far beyond the forest. It further builds on a tremendous legacy of forestry and woodland appreciation in this country.

Throughout the day delegates were introduced to many examples of agents for change; these took the form of books, art, television, research and web technology. It is such vehicles that are needed to infuse the importance of trees and woodlands into the heart of society. Hopefully all of these efforts will contribute to the wood culture that will shape a future where society cares for our tree and woodland resources in the best way possible.

We thank all of the speakers and the delegates for participating in some great debates and question sessions. Perhaps the notion of a wood culture was epitomised by a discussion between two delegates: one a woodland owner about the difficulties of communicating positively to members of the public about their management activities, the other a house owner who asked how she could be better informed about woodland management beyond her back garden.

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Cord-forming fungi in British woodlands

posted on July 9, 2013

Sylva scholar Kirsty Monk, has co-authored a paper published in the Royal Forestry Society‘s journal this month. It describes the role and importance of the lesser known group of ecosystem engineers in British woodlands; cord-forming fungi. With fellow author Gabriel Hemery, they examine the extent of our fungal knowledge and discuss their implications for forestry in the future.

Cord-forming fungi in British woodlands: what they are and what they do

Cord-forming fungi in British woodlands: what they are and what they do

The authors end with a salient and practical point for all woodland owners:

“The time has come to consider all components of woodland ecosystems when managing for timber or woodland products. Future improvements to timber yields and woodland health will lie in improving nutrient cycling and woodland resilience, especially in the light of projected environmental change and the uncertainly it presents to woodland owners and managers.”

Monk, K. and Hemery, G. (2013). Cord-forming fungi in British woodlands: what they are and what they do. Quarterly Journal of Forestry, 107, 3, 197-202.

The article is freely available to download from the Forestry Horizons library, with kind permission of the Royal Forestry Society.


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New approaches to old problems

posted on October 15, 2012

Our Sylva Scholar Kirsty Monk, provides a run down of a busy conference season in the ecological world.

This year is no exception, over the last fortnight I have attended three conferences, all totally different in context but sharing the common themes of using new methods to tackle old problems.

The Biodiversity Symposium in Oxford, highlighted the potential of new technologies, such as bioaccoustic recognition (being able to tell species apart from their song, using computers) and telemetry (electronic tracking), for enhancing scientific investigations. The programme included talks from the Sylva Foundation and myself about myForest and FungiWatch respectively and, to my delight, had a whole session devoted to citizen science.

Next came the Oxford Green Schools Conference where I, in collaboration with my partner school St Ebbes’, presented the results of our Royal Society project to other teachers from Oxford and received a great response.

One week later came a joint BES/SEB/BS conference devoted to interactions between above and belowground interactions. This was fascinating and highlighted just how complex life on earth really is, discussing everything from hormones, through aphids, to tropical forest carbon cycling.

All of these were great events and I cannot wait to put everything I have learned into practice!

Kirsty Monk, Sylva Scholar

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Fungal cord fieldwork

posted on April 30, 2012

Dr Gabriel Hemery donned his full waterproofs earlier this week to get stuck in to some fungal fieldwork with Sylva Scholar Kirsty Monk in Wytham woods. This was part of an experiment to study the distributions of cord-forming fungi at 20m and 2.5m scales. Results of this experiment will help uncover some of the factors responsible for determining which fungi are found where, and whether at small scales, woodlands tend to be dominated by one species or not. However, the fieldwork is only the tip of the iceberg as now the 100+ samples will be taken back to the lab to be cleaned and processed to find out, from their DNA, what species they are.

Sylva Scholar Kirsty Monk conducting fieldwork mapping fungal cords

Sylva Scholar Kirsty Monk conducting fieldwork mapping fungal cords at Wytham Woods. Here the white thread of a cord-forming fungi is being tracked and samples taken for later DNA analysis.


Read more posts about Kirsty Monk’s work

Category: Sylva Scholar

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University of Oxford seeks First Wood Professor of Forest Science

posted on November 30, 2011

Sylva has developed close ties with the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Oxford: we have a Sylva Scholar currently working towards a DPhil (read more) and regularly collaborate on projects, including the new State of British Woodlands survey. We are therefore delighted to promote the good news that funding has come together to enable to appointment of a new position: the Wood Professor of Forest Science.

 “Forestry… may be called the younger sister and the servant of Agriculture. Each of these arts is essential to the welfare of nations, and no people can be said to be wise, politic, or economic which does not pay attention to the advancement of both” (Nisbet 1905)

Oxford is nothing if not wise, politic and economic, and the appointment of a new Wood Professorship of Forest Science is exciting and timely. Forest-related information is of growing importance to a very diverse range of people and institutions around the world, and the University of Oxford has had a long tradition of generating just such information. Managed sustainably, forests provide long term employment and wood and non-timber products for use by society. In the UK alone forests contribute some £7.2bn per annum to the  economy as well as providing havens for wildlife and biodiversity, and a source of relaxation and enjoyment for the millions of people who visit them each year. Globally, forests have unrecognized potential in furthering the development agenda. The State of the World’s Forests 2011 recognises the importance of forests to poverty eradication and identifies some key areas that require research in order to realise this potential. For forests to thrive in a constantly evolving environment, a sound evidence base to underpin policy or management decisions is essential.

The purpose of the Wood Professorship of Forest Science is to develop a research initiative that will generate the fundamental science necessary to underpin robust evidence-based forest policy. The Department is looking for someone with an exceptional record of academic achievements to provide academic leadership in Forest Science in the Department of Plant Sciences and throughout the University. This is a completely new post for the Department, which enjoys an internationally leading position in research and teaching in plant sciences, with a particular focus on biochemistry and systems biology, cell and developmental biology, ecology, evolution and systematics.

The Professor will be expected to contribute to promoting the ‘Trees for Tomorrow’ initiative within the Plants for the 21st Century (P21C) Institute. Applications are encouraged from any candidate whose research program will augment existing strengths in the department. The Wood Professor of Forest Science will be a member of both the University and Linacre College and will have a role to play in the running of the College as a member and trustee of its Governing Body.

Start date: 1 October 2012 or as soon as possible thereafter.

Further details about the post and the application process can be found here. Applications, including a covering letter and full CV, and naming three referees should be received no later than Monday 16 January 2012, by Dr Gwen Booth, Personnel Officer, Senior Appointments at If you have a query about how to apply, please contact Mrs. Elaine Eastgate at or telephone: +44 (0) 1865 280189.

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Annual Review 2010-11 published

posted on November 4, 2011
Annual Review 2010-11

Sylva's Annual Review 2010-11

We have published online our Annual Review for 2010-11; our second operating year.

Highlights of the year included national media interest in our work, exhibitions for our OneOak project, and several research publications including two on the outcomes of the T10Q project.

We launched three new initiatives:

Sylva Scholarship


myForest service

The Review is available as a pdf document in two formats: low quality for onscreen reading, or high quality formatted for duplex printing.

Visit our About page to download

Category: Announcements

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An eventful first quarter for Sylva

posted on July 1, 2009

We have now completed our first quarter since becoming a charity in late March.  It has been an eventful and rewarding three months, with many of our ideas beginning to turn into reality.  Some of our most major developments are still some months away, but now may be a good time to review our progress and to share it with our friends and supporters.

Forestry Horizons – our think-tank

A number of scientific papers have been published and are available on our Forestry Horizons website.  A review of growing scattered broadleaves across Europe and the impacts of climate change has been co-written with eight other authors from across Europe. Sylva sponsored the proceedings of the Institute of Chartered Foresters’ National Conference titled “Trees, mutton or fuel?”.  These are also on our think-tank website.

Applied science project

We have made very positive progress with a number of high profile partners, including a Government research body and a top flight university, in developing a new applied science project.  We will announcing a new scholarship late in 2009.


Our innovative myForest project aiming to reconnect the wood chain was launched quietly as an R&D project in April.  We took on an IT Manager to help us take the project forward as interest has grown. Business users have started to sign up in ever greater numbers; the most intriguing being 20 fine furniture designer makers from across England in one evening.  Working closely with woodland owners in Oxfordshire we have signed many of these owners up to myForest, and worked closely with them to develop the services that we are able to supply.  These include an easy to use woodland inventory and online management planning software. A number of exciting developments over coming months are imminent, including the support of a core partner, and a joint partnership with a regional woodland project covering several counties in England.

OneOak project

Our new education project is aiming to connect people with growing trees for wood, and with using wood, by following the life story of one oak tree.  A large number of partners are now onboard.  We are working with a major Oxfordshire estate as the tree donor, and we have an innovative sawmill signed up, along with a furniture design college, many designer-makers, a research partner and a carbon footprint company.  We have the agreement of some six local primary schools to work with us closely in the project which is great news. We hope to launch the dedicated project website,, in September 2009.

Forest School

We are pleased to be able to continue our support of the Oxfordshire Forest School Service. We are also putting a funding proposal together with the Institute of Outdoor Learning, the Forest School Special Interest Group, and the Forest Education Initiative for a national co-ordinator for England.  If successful, the post would be hosted by Sylva.


Our project websites combined now attract over 3000 visits every month.  Interest in this blog is modest but should grow as content develops!  We must be one of the few forestry organisations using Twitter – and embeded in our Sylva website news section, it provides a useful feature for headline news.  We had a foray in the national media when our letter, arguing the case for sustainable woodland management, was published in The Guardian in April.

Our thanks …

… go to all our friends, supporters and donors.

Gabriel Hemery, CEO

Category: Announcements

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