Sylva Scholarship launched

posted on October 11, 2010
Plant Sciences

The Sylva Scholarship was launched in October 2010 in a partnership between the Sylva Foundation and the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Oxford. The theme of the Sylva Scholarship is

healthy trees and productive forests.

This reflects a joint vision between the Sylva Foundation and the Department of Plant Sciences to manage forest resources based on a fundamental understanding of forest ecosystems.

The  Sylva Scholarship programme will be administered by the Department of Plant Sciences, with the expectation that there will be a rolling programme of research students in the coming years.  The first Sylva Scholar, Oxford Graduate Kirsty Monk, is undertaking a study to investigate the possible impacts of forest management on woodland ecosystems.

Kirsty’s project is entitled ‘The consequences of management and climate change for ecosystem function: a case study of cord-forming fungi in English woodlands’.  The study will examine whether changes to the management regime and species composition of broadleaved woodlands are likely to have a significant impact on ecosystem function.  Impact will be monitored by examining the effects on an important group of ‘ecosystem engineers’ – the cord-forming fungi.  The research is supported by scientists from the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Oxford, and from the Natural History Museum, London.

Sylva Foundation CEO, Dr Gabriel Hemery, said “This is an important initiative under our Science programme, promoting sustainable forest management through research and communication.  Our support of a research studentship at one of the world’s leading departments of plant sciences enables us to tackle head on some of the most significant threats facing Britain’s trees and forests in the future, while realising opportunities too.”  He added “This particular research project will hopefully be the first of many and we are delighted to be supporting Kirsty in her work towards achieving a DPhil at the university.”

Professor Liam Dolan, Director of Graduate Studies in the Oxford Plant Sciences Department explained “We are fortunate in the UK in that our forests are currently valued as much for their biodiversity, carbon storage and environmental services as they are for their capacity to produce useable wood. However, the growing emphasis on reducing carbon emissions through increased use of locally produced timber and biofuel will provide a powerful incentive to make these woods more productive. It is therefore important that the effects that management for production will have on biodiversity and other environmental services are fully understood.”

Dr David Bass, from the Natural History Museum in London, added “the application of molecular biology to study the biodiversity and ecology of organisms that cannot be distinguished by their morphology alone – such as cord-forming fungi – is a rapidly developing field. The Sylva Scholarship will contribute greatly to training Kirsty in these techniques, which are fundamental skills for a modern biologist and are widely transferable to other areas of research. Her project will exploit an exciting synergy between molecular biology and forest ecology, which will throw new light on the ecology of wood decomposition – a key ecosystem service in woodlands and forests.”

Read more on our Forestry Horizons website

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