Help shape the next national woodlands survey

posted on September 14, 2016
British Woodlands Survey 2017

British Woodlands Survey 2017 – click to read more

The team behind the next major survey about our woodlands — launching in June 2017 — wants to hear from anyone with an interest in shaping the future of forestry in the UK.

This is an opportunity for you to shape the fourth in a series of important national surveys, which will contribute to the development of forestry policy and practice in the UK.

Adopting a novel approach, the researchers are inviting participants to suggest important themes the survey should address. They are calling this ‘360-degree’ research, meaning that participants suggest the themes, then can help by contributing ideas and helping interpret findings. There will also be opportunities to take part in workshops around the UK.

Your participation is welcome in all or any of the following phases:

Phase 1 – Help shape the survey by suggesting priorities. September 2016.

Phase 2 – Attend a workshop to agree final themes & priorities. February 2017.

Phase 3 – Contribute to the survey. June 2017.

Phase 4 – Help review findings. September 2017.


To read more about the survey series and find out how take part in Phase 1 – click here


Core Supporters of BWS2017

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


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Volunteer intern to work on forest resilience

posted on November 11, 2015
Zia Mehrabi

Dr Zia Mehrabi, Sylva intern

We are pleased to welcome a new addition to the Sylva team, Dr Zia Mehrabi.

Zia is an ecologist from the University of Oxford working on ways to optimise ecosystem design for both productivity and environmental sustainability. He is working with Sylva as a volunteer intern, funded by the BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership internship programme.

During his internship at Sylva, he will be helping to develop a strategy for monitoring the health of UK woodlands using the myForest service. This is an innovative tool that currently helps owners to map and manage their woodlands. Zia will be exploring how myForest could also provide a platform for monitoring how management activity can maintain biodiversity and support resilient woodlands.

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Volunteers wanted for leaf fall research

posted on October 22, 2015

‘Leaves on the line’ are a common rail problem during the autumn period in the UK. Fallen leaves each year from September to December create mulch like substances on the rail line making the rail head slippery. This slippery rail reduces adhesion between the track and the train wheel. The lower adhesion causes delays, trains to slip and not stop at stations which often results in changes to the usual timetable.

University of Birmingham PhD student Jennifer Kirby looking at the autumn leaf fall problem around the UK rail network.

University of Birmingham PhD student Jennifer Kirby looking at the autumn leaf fall problem around the UK rail network.

A PhD project, at the University of Birmingham, is investigating alternative ways of measuring leaf fall which could help reduce delays in the autumn period. In order to do this a team of volunteers is needed to measure leaf fall around the country. This will help to gain a greater understanding of when different tree species fall across the UK.

Jennifer is therefore looking for volunteers who can spare 10 minutes, 3 days a week, to make observations about leaf fall in a local woodland area. These observations don’t need to be near a rail line.

Volunteers will be sent an observation sheet. This is an Excel document that you can fill in with your observations. If you are interested in improving rail safety and taking a walk around local woodland areas then please help and get involved.

If you are interested in volunteering or have any further questions about the project please get in contact with Jennifer (email:

Category: SCIENCE

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Environmental factors changing our woodlands say UK owners and foresters

posted on October 1, 2015
Bristish Woodlands Survey 2015 infographic

Bristish Woodlands Survey 2015 infographic

9/10 woodland owners and other forestry professionals who responded to a national survey about environmental change in British woodlands say they had observed at least one form of impact in the past 10 years.

Woodland owners reported increases in vertebrate pests such as deer and squirrels while among professional managers and agents, pathogens and pests were the most commonly-reported impact on the woodlands that they manage.

Responses to the British Woodlands Survey 2015

Responses to the British Woodlands Survey 2015

More than 1470 people responded to the survey. The figures are among the first results revealed by a British Woodlands Survey on Resilience and are being announced today (1 Oct) at a Conference hosted by the Royal Forestry Society and Woodland Trust, Resilient Woods: Meeting the Challenges.

Nearly three quarters (72%) of the UK’s woodlands are in private ownership. The survey provides an insight into how their owners; those who manage them and the nurseries who supply them are responding to potential challenges of the future through their planting and tree species choice. It captured the opinions and activities of those responsible for managing 11% of all privately-owned woodlands in the UK; an area covering 247,571 ha (equivalent to 245,606 rugby fields).

The survey results emphasised that in the past only 44% had specified provenance (origin) when buying trees for new planting. This highlights there may be a lack of awareness of the importance of provenance, and tree genetic diversity in general, when planning resilient woodlands. 69% of owners stated a preference in future for sourcing material grown in UK nurseries, possibly reflecting recent issues around infected imported plants – ash dieback was originally identified in the UK on plants imported from nurseries in continental Europe.

There also appears to be an appetite among private woodland owners towards a move from the current mix of native and non native tree species to a 6% increase in native species compared to non-native species. Such as change was not supported by forestry professionals.

Looking to the future, most respondents believe that climate change will significantly affect our forests, although there is considerable uncertainty among private woodland owners among whom more than 50% are uncertain or don’t believe it will affect forests in the future. This is despite risks highlighted including flooding, drought, wind and fire.

Dr Gabriel Hemery, Chief Executive of the Sylva Foundation and survey co-ordinator, said: “We are passionate at Sylva about working with the many thousands of owners and forestry professionals whose voices are not often heard. The weight of the response to this survey will allow their views and experiences to inform policy and practice for years to come. We are grateful to all those who took part, and indebted to our partner organisations for their support.”

Beccy Speight, Woodland Trust CEO said: “The survey results give the industry some real insight into how our woodlands are changing. We hope the survey will help to stimulate discussion at the conference in order to help kick-start a unified approach to understand the issues more fully, tackle challenges we face as a sector together, and identify a way forward to help create a resilient landscape for the future.”

Simon Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Royal Forestry Society (RFS), whose membership includes many of the private woodland owners of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, says : “The survey shows that most woodland owners are already experiencing the adverse impacts of pests and disease in their woods and expect this trend to continue in future. Survey respondents recognise the need to improve the resilience of their woods to environmental change. The challenge is to provide woodland owners with the evidence base to support long term decisions on species choice and management systems. A lot more work is required in this area.”


Of the survey respondents, 821 (56%) were private woodland owners, with professional agents responsible for managing 3473 woodlands and 13 specialist tree nurseries with a combined annual turnover of more than £7.5m also taking part.

The information from the survey will be used by organisations, policy makers and researchers to help improve the resilience of the nation’s forests, and how better support can be provided to woodland owners and managers. The results will also inform the government’s National Adaptation Programme for England.

A full report will be published before the end of the year and made freely available at

Notes to Editors

The British Woodlands Survey is a series of surveys undertaken to gather evidence about the nations’ woodlands and those who care for them. The British Woodlands Survey is co-ordinated by the Sylva Foundation with support from a large number of organisations. The 2015 survey on the theme of resilience was sponsored by Forestry Commission England, Oxford University, and Woodland Trust.

The Royal Forestry Society (RFS) is an educational charity and one of the oldest membership organisations for those actively involved in woodland management. The RFS believes bringing neglected woods back into management and sharing knowledge on how to manage woods to a high standard is vital to the long term health of our woods and trees. Our policies identify what is required to ensure our woods deliver their full economic, environmental and public benefits. For information go to Follow us: Twitter: @royal_forestry, Facebook: Royal Forestry Society – RFS, Linked- In: Royal Forestry Society

The Sylva Foundation is an environmental charity working to revive Britain’s wood culture. It works across Britain caring for forests, to ensure they thrive for people and for nature, and supporting innovation in home-grown wood. Sylva’s forestry think-tank, Forestry Horizons, is the home of the British Woodlands Survey series, which was launched in 2012. Its myForest service is used by more than 3000 woodland owners and agents across Britain. It supports forest education through a number of initiatives, and is fostering businesses at the Sylva Wood Centre in Oxfordshire, which opened in 2015. Contact: Dr Gabriel Hemery, Chief Executive. 01865 408016 (direct dial) or 07759 141438 (mobile).

The Woodland Trust is the largest woodland conservation charity in the UK. It has over 500,000 supporters. 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.

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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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Conference: Resilient Woodlands – meeting the challenges

posted on September 7, 2015
Resilient Woodlands conference: 1st October

Resilient Woodlands conference: 1st October

An important conference — Resilient Woodlands: meeting the challenges — is taking place at Birmingham on 1st October, and places are still available.

The conference is not only where people can hear the first results of the British Woodlands Survey 2015 but also listen to a top level line up of speakers raising the questions we need to consider about the impact of climate change on our woods and offering their perspectives on measures to support moves towards increased resilience. Organised jointly by the Royal Forestry Society and the Woodland Trust it promises to be a lively conference with plenty of time for discussion which anybody with an active interest in the long term health of our woods will benefit from attending.

Speakers include:

  • Mike Townsend, Woodland Trust
  • Dr Gabriel Hemery, Sylva Foundation
  • Duncan Stone, Scottish Natural Heritage
  • Graham Taylor, Pryor and Rickett
  • Professor Rob Mackenzie, BiFor
  • Dr Tom Tew, Vincent Wildlife Trust
  • Philippe Morgan, President, Pro Silva

A full programme and booking details can be found here.

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Encouraging response to national survey with two weeks remaining

posted on September 3, 2015
British Woodlands Survey 2015

British Woodlands Survey 2015

The British Woodlands Survey — this year exploring adaptation to environmental change — is attracting interest from people right across Britain.

We are hugely grateful to all those who have responded. So far over 1200 woodland owners, agents, nursery managers and tree professionals have shared their views and information with us. This is immensely encouraging with over two weeks still to run until we close the survey. The deadline is 15th September.

Map of survey responses received as of 2nd September

Map of survey responses received as of 2nd September

A simple look at the geography of responses received to date shows that there is under-representation in Scotland, and various regions across Britain. Are you in any of these areas, or can you forward this news item to any contacts and encourage them to take part?

In terms of woodland area represented in survey responses received to date, owners and agents managing more than 10% of all privately-owned forests and woodlands across Britain have completed the survey. We can have some confidence that this representation will provide considerable weight to the findings of the survey.

The more responses received representing the full range of attitudes and experiences among the tree and forestry community, the more robust the scientific findings, and the greater the impact on practice and policy for years to come.


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

Take the survey


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Resilient woodlands: meeting the challenge

posted on June 11, 2015

An important conference will take place on October 1st concerning the challenges facing our woodlands from environmental change. Organised jointly by the Royal Forestry Society and the Woodland Trust,  we are pleased to have been invited to contribute. Sylva Foundation CEO Dr Gabriel Hemery will present early findings from the latest of our British Woodlands Surveys — to launch this summer on the theme of resilience (read more) — and discuss these in the context of practical action that woodland owners can take.

October 1st 2015

The RFS and The Woodland Trust present: 

Resilient Woodlands: meeting the challenges

resilience - are you meeting the challenges

Resilience – are you meeting the challenges? A poster produced by Sylva in 2014

Everybody’s talking about the challenges, but what should you be doing?

Join a top line up of speakers at the National Motorcyle Museum , Birmingham, to address these three key questions:

  • What are the key challenges for woods and woodland owners in the 21st century?
  • How can we make woods and wooded landscapes both ecologically and financially resilient?
  • What does this mean in terms of policy and practice?

The event brings together a unique line up of experts to discuss the questions which impact on all woodland owners and managers, and on everyone who loves or is involved in woodlands – what should we all be doing to ensure our woodlands are resilient to the threats from environmental change?

Full details of the conference, the speakers and how to book go to 

The conference counts towards CPD for a number of organisations, and  places are limited, so book early!

RFS President Sophie Churchill and The Woodland Trust CEO, Beccy Speight will be chairing the day.

Speakers are: Resilient Landscapes – Mike Townsend, Woodland Trust; Ecological Resilience in Woodlands –  Duncan Stone, Scottish Natural Heritage; Making Woodlands Pay – Graham Taylor, Pryor and Rickett Silviculture; Resilience: a research perspective – Professor Rob MacKenzie , BIFoR; Forest Resilience and Climate Change – Jonathan Spencer, Forestry Commission; Resilience in Living Landscapes – Stephen Trotter, the Wildlife Trusts; Natural Capital – Professor  Dieter Helm, Chairman of Natural Capital Committee (by video); Marketing your Woodland: innovations in wood product markets – Jez Ralph, Timber Strategies; Are pine martens the answer to grey squirrel control? – Dr Tom Tew, Chief Executive Environment Bank and Chairman of Vincent Wildlife Trust; A Practical Guide to taking Action on Resilience – Dr Gabriel Hemery, Sylva Foundation.

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Citizen science and tree health highlighted

posted on April 30, 2015
Woodland Trust Wood Wise - Spring 2015.

Woodland Trust Wood Wise – Spring 2015. Click to read and download.

The Spring issue of the Woodland Trust’s magazine Wood Wise focusses on the role that everyone in society can take in collecting important information about trees.

It includes the Living Ash Project, which is featured alongside many other great initiatives. This is a project in which we are working alongside the Earth Trust, Forest Research the Future Trees Trust, with funding from Defra. We are hoping to attract more volunteers this Spring to capture the latest spread of ash dieback and possible tolerance exhibited by some trees.

Our thanks to the Woodland Trust and editor Kay Hawes.


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Congratulations to Dr Kirsty Monk

posted on March 12, 2015
Sylva Scholar Kirsty Monk conducting fieldwork mapping fungal cords

Oxford-Sylva Scholar Kirsty Monk conducting fieldwork mapping fungal cords at Wytham Woods in 2012

Congratulations to Dr Kirsty Monk, our first Oxford-Sylva scholar (2010-14), who passed her DPhil viva voce last week!

Kirsty studied the role of cord-forming fungi in British woodlands at the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Oxford, and has since started pursuing a career as a science teacher.

We will make available the full thesis in the near future.

Read more about the Oxford-Sylva scholarship

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