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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 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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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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Your last chance to take part in the 2017 national woodlands survey

posted on September 25, 2017

British Woodlands Survey 2017

We’ve been delighted with the response over the summer months to the 2017 British Woodlands Survey. So far more than 1,600 woodland owners, agents, foresters, forest school practitioners, and forestry and wood businesses have taken part in the national web-based survey.

Devolution, pests & pathogens, Brexit, emerging markets, climate change, societal attitudes . . . these are just some of the momentous factors influencing our trees and woodlands, those who care for them, and those who rely on their products and services. Have your say about what these and other issues mean to you by taking part in Britain’s only dedicated national survey about our woodlands and forestry. This year we have unprecedented interest from policy makers, national organisations, research commissioners and others. Make sure your voice counts!

It’s not too late to take part. The survey closes to responses on Sunday 1st October at 23:59.

Please read more and take the survey: www.sylva.org.uk/bws2017


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Your chance to take part in important national survey

posted on September 11, 2017
British Woodlands Survey 2017

British Woodlands Survey 2017

To date more than 1,100 woodland owners, agents, foresters, and businesses have taken part in the British Woodlands Survey 2017. The responses received so far represent the views of those caring for more than 100,000 ha of woodland across Britain. Open until end September, we are hopeful that even more people with an interest in the future of forestry will take part before the survey closes.

With specific sections for Scotland and Wales this year, Sylva Foundation and research collaborators are particularly keen to receive more responses from those active in these countries. We are also keen to hear from more businesses. It goes without saying that we are always pleased to receive more feedback from woodland owners and agents.

take the survey

Please take the survey

British Woodlands Survey 2017 is open until end September.

www.sylva.org.uk/bws2017

 


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Helping shape the future of forestry

posted on February 17, 2017

This week we held our second of four workshops across Britain with stakeholders, helping set the main themes for the next British Woodlands Survey to launch in the summer.

BWS2017 Grantham workshop

BWS2017 Grantham workshop

BWS2017

Through a series of four stakeholder workshops we aim to shape the main ‘Themes’ of a survey which will be launched in June 2017. Each workshop builds on the outcomes of the last in an iterative process (see diagram below). The concept of identifying Themes is to ensure that the eventual survey questions focus on the most important issues of our time, as it is impractical to ask questions about every aspect of interest to all stakeholders. The Themes have arisen from previous research and workshops. Along with the GB-wide main Themes, we will allow Themes to emerge at each workshop which relate to country or regional issues.

This second workshop (the first being held in Oxford) was kindly hosted by the Woodland Trust. We welcomed several private woodland owners, plus representatives from Woodland Trust, National Forest and Tilhill. Colleagues from the Social & Economic Research Group at Forest Research are attending each workshop to assess the effectiveness of the approach adopted and to ensure academic rigour.

Next week we will holding our third workshop, this time at the Forestry Hub in Machynlleth, kindly hosted by Llais y Goedwig.

BWS2017 workshops - an iterative process

BWS2017 workshops – an iterative process


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Help shape the future of forestry

posted on January 18, 2017

We are holding a series of workshops around Britain to help shape the 2017 British Woodlands Survey 2017 (BWS2017). If you are a woodland owner, forest manager, forestry business owner, land agent or have other related interests, and you are interested in helping shape the future of forestry, please read on.

BWS2017 is led by researchers from Forest Research, Sylva Foundation, University of Oxford and Woodland Trust. Funding is provided by Scottish Forestry Trust, Forestry Commission Scotland, and Woodland Trust.

BWS2017 is led by researchers from Forest Research, Sylva Foundation, University of Oxford and Woodland Trust. Funding is provided by Scottish Forestry Trust, Forestry Commission Scotland, and Woodland Trust.

For BWS2017 we are adopting a novel approach whereby the researchers are inviting participants to suggest important themes the survey should address. We are calling this ‘360-degree’ research, meaning that participants suggest the themes, then can help by contributing ideas and helping interpret findings. Your participation is welcome in all or any of the phases, the next being Phase 2:

  1. [Phase 1 – Help shape the survey by suggesting priorities. September 2016. COMPLETED]
  2. Phase 2 – Attend a workshop to agree final themes & priorities. February/March 2017.
  3. Phase 3 – Contribute to the survey. June 2017.
  4. Phase 4 – Help review findings. September 2017.

Dates and Venues

February 1st       – Oxford Martin School, Oxford University, England

February 15th     – Woodland Trust HQ, Grantham, England

February 22nd    – Forestry Hub, Machynlleth, Wales (hosted by Llais y Goedwig)

March 2nd         – Centre for Carbon Innovation, University of Edinburgh, Scotland

Each workshop will be lively and all participants will be fully involved in helping shape outcomes. Tea and coffee and a light lunch will be available. There will be no charge for attending.

We hope that we will be able to find places for those who want to attend, but as venues are not large, we will aim to get a good balance of participants across the sector; once that condition is fulfilled, we will assign places by random selection.

If you are interested in helping shape the future of British forestry by attending a workshop, please complete this form:

[this survey is now closed]


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