Sylva Foundation is proud to launch an innovative new project for myForest users called Forest Lab, in partnership with Forest Research. This exciting initiative uses the latest technology to advance knowledge exchange between landowners and scientists; the collection and sharing of data by volunteer ‘stewardship scientists’ aims to improve forest resilience, enhance forest biodiversity, and protect nature and the landscape.
Background of Forest Lab
The idea of Forest Lab is built on the success of myForest, the flagship project of Sylva Foundation. The past 10 years has seen myForest grow to more than 10,000 users, who use the innovative digital platform to manage 185,000+ hectares of forest, and 1,200+ hectares of forest creation schemes. With myForest users collaborating with forestry scientists and researchers, there is a unique opportunity to collect and share data that will have an impact, not just on individual private woodlands, but on the resilience of forests right across Britain.
In collaboration with Forest Research, Sylva Foundation secured a three-year grant from Defra in 2022 to explore how myForest users can contribute to forest management and forestry science. A feasibility study then followed, with 158 myForest users responding positively to the concept of ‘stewardship science’ through Forest Lab. The first Alpha testing phase consisted of a small number of myForest users selected from the survey, who helped shape, test and develop the Forest Lab model. The recently completed second Beta testing phase was built on the users’ feedback, with more volunteers given the opportunity to join Forest Lab through a link appearing in their myForest account.
Funding for this work has been provided by Defra under its Future Proofing Plant Health project.
Forest Lab Model
Forest Lab is rooted in Sylva Foundation values of innovation and collaboration. Working on a ‘plug in and play’ model on the existing myForest digital platform, Forest Lab is built on a two-way commitment between myForest users and scientists. This reciprocal arrangement ensures that by agreeing to collect and share inventory data, myForest users benefit from the unique opportunity to learn from their evidence, as scientists in turn share the latest research and advances in forest management and forestry science.
There are many exciting opportunities with the evolution of Forest Lab. In the long term, there is the possibility of utilising Forest Lab’s agility to provide an early warning system to threats to our forests. The short term focus will be on rolling out specific projects such as Wildfire to ensure both myForest users and scientists benefit from essential research into existing and emerging issues that affect the resilience of forests across Britain.