Major research projects to explore UK forest expansion

Woodland accounts for 13% of the British landscape, and soak up 21m tonnes of carbon annually. Scientists want to increase their size, and therefore capacity. 

Six major research projects have been announced, which will collectively explore and investigate possible ways in which the UK’s hedgerows, woods, forests and treelines could be expanded to cover more of the country, in both urban and rural settings. 

tall trees with dried leaves on ground

Those behind the work say steps such as this are essential in a bid to hit net zero carbon target year of 2050. Already, forests in Britain are responsible for capturing and storing 21m tonnes of CO2 annually, while improving biodiversity, reducing flood risk, and having a positive impact on wellbeing. 

Overall, £3m in funding has been allocated for the studies, which include:

*An investigation into new approaches to woodland expansion, including natural colonisation 

*Developing practical tools for famers to support the expansion of tree planting on agricultural land

*Studying the development of agroforestry – growing trees alongside crops and livestock 

*Establishing a web-based tool mapping the risk deer pose to woodland and farmland

*Analysing how to bridge the gap between net zero objectives and tree planting at a local level

*Understanding the potential offered by diversifying tree species to increase woodland resilience 

‘The UK is one of the least wooded areas of Europe, with only thirteen per cent forest cover. They are a precious resource and part of the solution to tackling the climate and ecological emergencies we face,’ said Julie Urquhart, Associate Professor of Environmental Social Science at the Countryside and Community Research Institute, University of Gloucestershire, and joint ambassador of the new research programme.

‘These new projects will show how we can effectively support those who manage our treescapes to expand these habitats and improve our environment while at the same locking up carbon to tackle climate change,’ she added. 

Earlier this month, the University of Gothenburg published new research that suggests tree planting may not be an effective climate change solution. Find out why.

Image: Donald Giannatti


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