Progress Phase 2 of the Observatree partnership and build an expanded volunteer network
Achieved: Partnership established with Dr Mary Barkham as Chair of Board. Substantial network of volunteers established with many keen new recruits; training planned to confirm knowledge and field skills ahead of approaching field season. Workshop held in March 2019, organised by FR with support from Defra, for partnership representatives and external academics to review data collection and analyse priorities and processes, and to capture efficiencies and lay the foundation for further evolution of Observatree.
Carry out surveys and provide diagnostic services and monitoring across the country as required under the EU Plant Health Directive to ensure that the UK retains protected zone status against regulated tree pests and diseases, and provide a report on these activities to the UK and EU statutory bodies. Complete the transition of TreeAlert to Forest Research and maintain and enhance its functionality for countrywide reporting
Achieved: Very strong demand for Advisory services throughout the year – via the Tree Health Diagnostic and Advisory Service (THDAS) and TreeAlert, and by country requests for diagnostics relating to Phytophthora ramorum (substantial expansion of affected area this year). A TreeAlert entry led to the discovery of ash dieback (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus) on three new species of Oleaceae family.
Rapid progress has been made in the transition of TreeAlert to FR, procuring new support and implementing a number of improvements to the system during the transition. The TreeAlert Steering Group met in March 2019 to receive an update of progress, affirm support and begin to scope future developments.
In November 2018, the protected zone surveys led to early detection of the European spruce bark beetle (Ips typographus) in Kent. This is a potential threat to spruce and is high on the list of unwanted pest species. FR drafted the management plan that was approved by Defra and has been thoroughly involved with its implementation. This has involved follow-up surveys to establish the extent of the outbreak, the removal and destruction of spruce trees on the infected site, and the establishment of a grid of pheromone traps to capture and kill any remaining beetles that may have overwintered in the litter on the ground. The success of these measures to eradicate the pest should be apparent after June 2020.
Participate in the public launch of the Action Oak partnership and the development of its knowledge exchange and research functions
Achieved: Action Oak launched at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2018. The campaign is progressing but is yet to source large unrestricted funds, though partnerships (for example, with the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research – BIFoR) are increasing research capacity and promoting knowledge exchange.
FR is leading the final preparations for publishing the Oak Health Knowledge Review as an Action Oak report. FR scientists and communications staff are also contributing to a series of knowledge-exchange and promotion events and are developing ideas through a network of demonstration sites. FR scientists contributed to and helped develop the research advisory document (ROG) being compiled and prepared by Defra for Action Oak, which is intended to table oak health and resilience needs and will be used in fundraising.
Gather scientific information and evidence to assist with the management of damaging pests and diseases and the development of tree health policy, and ensure the dissemination of this information
Achieved: Disease progression at the ash-screening sites has been reassessed and a subset of sites that will be retained for a further five years has been identified. For each site an extension to FR access has been agreed.
A scientific paper was published summarising investigations of the chestnut-blight outbreak and revealing the genetic structure of the population. Policy advice was given across a range of topics, including the chestnut-blight outbreak and the recent discovery of the European spruce bark beetle (Ips typographus).
FR commenced work on BRIGIT, a new project funded by the BBSRC Strategic Partnership Fund, which focuses on improving evidence on Xylella fastidiosa, a bacterial pathogen with a very wide range of hosts which is proving problematic in a number of European countries. FR staff are contributing to two Xylella projects for the Scottish Government’s Plant Health Centre: one is constructing a broad-scale risk map to inform contingency planning, the other is examining the presence of insect vectors in Scottish woodlands that are being studied by the Woodland Creation and Ecological Networks (WrEN) project.
FR is also completing work on the detection of the airborne inoculum of Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, the fungus that causes ash dieback, and its detection on ash fruits, and possible eradication using a hot-water treatment. This was part of the EU-funded project POnTE (Pest Organisms Threatening Europe) which will finish in October 2019.
Undertake reports on the role of urban tree stature and age on ecosystem service delivery by large, medium and small tree species over their lifespan
Achieved: A mini-series of two research reports describes the role of urban trees in benefiting people who live and work in UK towns and cities. One report focuses on trees that typically grow to be large, while the second covers trees of only small to medium stature. Both reports outline how the benefits (also referred to as ecosystem services) change through the lifespan of 30 species of common urban trees.
A Forestry Commission Research Note summarises the findings of the two reports on the delivery of regulating ecosystem services. The importance of tree size, stature and condition on ecosystem service delivery is examined. Key drivers and practices in the four key stages of urban-tree management (species selection, planting and establishment, maintenance and removal) are also reviewed, as well as their roles in influencing ecosystem services.
Findings demonstrate that through selection of the trees planted, how trees are maintained and when and for what reasons trees are removed, management practices can influence ecosystem-service delivery. Healthy large trees are shown to provide the greatest quantities of ecosystem services, and so urban forestry management that values and protects these trees can realise greater ecosystem service delivery. However, various constraints and challenges can inhibit proactive, asset-based management of urban trees. These findings will be of value to those engaged in preparing and delivering future urban-forest management strategies.
Complete an evaluation for the Forestry Commission/Defra of the flood regulation service of existing forest cover to inform natural capital accounts
Achieved: This work was completed in December 2018 and, after presenting the findings to Defra and taking on board their comments, it is now available on our website.
Support the mainstreaming of the Active Forest Programme and undertake the associated monitoring and evaluation
Achieved: FR’s monitoring and evaluation of the Active Forest pilot programme played a key role in providing evidence that the programme was suitable for wider mainstreaming. The five sites in the pilot were joined by three further sites in 2017–18 and six more sites in 2018–19, taking the total to date to 14 sites across England. A further four urban-focused sites will be included in 2019–20. Four further case studies of specific Active Forest activities were undertaken, including buggyfit, table tennis, Nordic walking and pilates, and these are available as two-page summaries on the Active Forest evaluation webpage.
Results from monitoring and evaluation studies using quality-adjusted life years were recently presented to the Active Forest board with values shown for potential savings to the NHS. FR is also working with researchers from Finland to adapt and test the My Dynamic Forest tool at Thames Chase Forest as part of it becoming an Active Forest site.
And FR is involved in a Forest Europe expert group on forests and human health and has contributed to two chapters of a report that will be published by Forest Europe and presented at a workshop in Vienna in April 2019. Higher level results from the project have been presented at the Outdoor Industries Association conference held in March 2019.
Publish results emerging from the WrEN natural experiment project to inform future conservation actions of woodland planting and management, and organise a WrEN conference to bring diverse stakeholders together
Achieved: A very successful Woodland Creation and Ecological Networks (WrEN) conference was held in London in late April 2018 (see blog and twitter activity), with strong stakeholder interest and support for the research. Publication of results is ongoing (see www.wren-project.com). A blog from the conference in April is available at www.wren-project.com/blog
Several journal articles have been published or submitted, which explore how migrant birds, small mammals, plant species and soils respond over time to the creation of secondary woodland. The findings have informed Scottish Natural Heritage and Forestry Commission Scotland best-practice guidance, and prompted positive feedback, for example, from a woodland consultant who wrote: ‘What a great bit of work and really useful data! Well done Stirling Uni and FR. WrEN project is really delivering new data and important insights.’
Two WrEN-related PhDs also started this year: one, co-funded by FR and Stirling University, will examine below-ground biodiversity including ectomycorrhizal communities; a second, NERC CASE-funded PhD with Leeds University, will examine the role of hedges and other landscape features in biodiversity within WrEN sites. Most recently, a small project, funded by the Plant Health Centre, Scotland, used WrEN samples to examine the distribution and abundance of potential vectors of Xylella fastidiosa, a damaging pathogen in mainland Europe with a risk of outbreak in the UK.
Lead the PESFOR-W COST Action programme on Forests for Water Quality Payments for Ecosystem Services
Achieved: FR chaired a successful meeting of the PESFOR-W COST Action in Norway from 2 to 5 July 2018, with over 40 participants from 25 countries represented. The next meeting, from 25 to 27 September 2018, was chaired in Bulgaria. It attracted about 40 participants from 21 countries and included a session co-organised with the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) Expert Panel on Forests and Water. FR also co-organised an excellent session on ‘Forests and Water’ at the Ecosystem Services Partnership regional conference in Spain in October 2018, which was much appreciated by participants. The training school on ‘Environmental Effectiveness of Woodland Measures for Reducing Agricultural Diffuse Pollution to Water – Evidence, SWAT Modelling and Decision Support’ held in Portugal in October 2018 was also a great success and highly rated by trainees.
The Action Rapporteur’s mid-term report judged the Action to have made very good progress so far in meeting its main objective. A series of Working Group workshops were held in spring 2019, including one on institutional factors influencing the development of woodlands for water payments for ecosystem services (PES) schemes (building on the results of a survey of Action participants); one on communicating the ‘wow’ factor about woodlands for water PES schemes; one on the environmental effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of Danish woodlands for water PES schemes; and one on drafting an outline for the user manual on developing woodlands for water PES schemes. More than 20 abstracts were submitted for a session on woodlands for water PES that FR is convening at the IUFRO World Forestry Congress this autumn in Brazil.
In partnership with Woodland Heritage, Natural Resources Wales and Forestry Commission Scotland, host a meeting and publish the results celebrating the long-term experiments on free growth of oak
Achieved: A successful meeting was held on 19 April 2018 in Devauden, south-east Wales, with 100 people visiting Crumblands Plantation for a demonstration on ‘free growth of oak’. A short report was published in Woodland Heritage 2018 (pages 27–29) and a scientific paper has been published in the July edition of Quarterly Journal of Forestry.
Kerr, G. and Forster, J. (2018). Can we grow oak to 60cm DBH in less than 100 years in Britain? Quarterly Journal of Forestry 112(3), 156–162
Review the opportunities that Earth observation techniques and capabilities have to improve effectiveness and efficiency of forest productivity and major management interventions, initially for Kielder Forest
Achieved: Research has shown that LiDAR data, collected from sensors mounted on planes, will allow us to estimate height growth and variation within forest stands. Equivalent data covering bigger areas, such as Kielder Forest, provide opportunities to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of forest productivity and major management interventions. Data captured by the Environment Agency (EA) for all of England and Wales were obtained, but, unfortunately, only a subset of LiDAR information was routinely captured by the EA, and tree height could not be estimated from the data currently available.
Consequently, analysis focused on how tree growth is influenced by competition from neighbouring trees and the wind climate at Aberfoyle Forest as there were better and more detailed datasets available for this forest. Growth was reduced in the vicinity (10 to 30 m distance) or adjacent to the larger wind-throw gaps and in locations that suffered the largest gust values but where no structural damage was observed. This method allows us to estimate timber volume losses from catastrophic wind-throw (normally recovered by salvaging operations), endemic damage (never recovered) and lost production due to slower growth rates. Results were presented in October 2018 at the Association for Forest Spatial Analysis Technologies (ForestSAT) conference, Maryland, US (Monitoring adaptation to wind in Sitka spruce plantations using time-series analysis of airborne LiDAR. J Suarez and R Manso).
Complete and disseminate the development of improved models for predicting the development of top height with age for major UK tree species
Achieved: Excellent progress. Relationships of top height against age for Sitka spruce have been completed and the approach will be used to establish relationships with the other UK species or species groups. Top height to age relationships for all species with adequate data have been completed and there has been good progress in drafting a paper for publication.
An approach has been defined to decide how to model species with insufficient information to justify a unique model. This has allowed the top height to age for all species to be modelled. A QA has been completed and work is now focused on fitting the relationship of basal area and volume to top height and age.
Update the current published yield curves for Sitka spruce (SS) and improved SS
Achieved (as far as current data will allow): Following on from the new generation of relationships for height to stand age described above, basal area – the cross-sectional area of a tree at a standard height from the ground – has been successfully related to stand age for Sitka spruce, our main commercial species. Using basal area and the number of trees in a stand, updated relationships between the total volume of a stand and age have been calculated. These are known as the yield curves.
Similar work for Sitka spruce that has been selected and bred for greater growth, form and timber properties – known as improved Sitka spruce – is limited by the lack of available data. Improved Sitka spruce plants were used for the first time 15–20 years ago, and so at present there are very few meaningful measurements and it is not advisable to finalise new models for improved Sitka spruce in 2018–19. Discussions are under way with the private sector to improve data availability to support a growth-and-yield model specific to improved Sitka spruce.
Contribute to the delivery of partners’ events, including the Institute of Chartered Foresters Conference (a focus on innovation, April 2018), Royal Highland Show (June 2018), Royal Welsh Show (July 2018), APF (September 2018) and activities of the European Forest Institute
Achieved: FR staff presented at the annual Institute of Chartered Foresters (ICF) conference and chaired key sessions. FR also had stands at the Royal Welsh Show and APF in 2018. FR staff also sit on the European Forest Institute (EFI) Science Committee and main Council.
Complete the transition of Forester software and associated spatial data repository to a cloud-hosted web platform
Achieved: Transition completed successfully.
Publish UK National Statistics and Official Statistics releases on subjects including forestry statistics, timber price indices, UK wood production and analyses from the National Forest Inventory (NFI)
Achieved: ‘Forestry Statistics 2018’ and ‘Forestry Facts and Figures 2018’ were released on 27 September 2018.
‘Nursery Survey: 2018 edition’ was released on 6 September 2018.
See our calendar for a 2019 timetable for scheduled publications.
Survey 1,690 hectares of forest land for the National Forest Inventory (NFI) and publish NFI reports on woodland ownership and woodland habitat condition
Achieved: Survey target met for the year.
Woodland habitat condition metrics have been reviewed by and agreed with countries for reporting purposes. Woodland ownership report drafted and undergoing internal QA.
A new technique to deliver estimates of clear-felling to customers sooner has been established. This resulted in the publication of an ad hoc report of clear-felling in Scotland (2016 to 2017) in summer 2018. The technique centres on applying sampling methodology to shorten production timelines while maintaining and measuring accuracy of estimates. The system is now operational for NFI clear-fell monitoring for Britain.
NFI statistical reports on woodland ecological condition, woodland ownership and social usage of woodlands have been written.
A new technique was established to detect clear-felling using synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) and machine learning. The technique was further fused with more traditional optical analysis of remote-sensing data techniques to produce a new operational NFI system for detecting clear-fell across Britain. The main advantage of the new technique is that it can work even if cloud cover is too dense for images to be taken of forest and woodland, effectively seeing through clouds.
Deliver the transition of FR such that it is working to the new operational model, with new governance arrangements and supporting operating systems, from 1 April 2019
Substantially complete at 31 March 2019. FR had designed, procured and installed its new WAN and LANs prior to March; transitioned the bulk of staff to its new desktop platform by the same date; procured, designed and launched its new enterprise, resource and planning platform by the start of April and started to finalise its VOIP and network share cutover in time for the FC shared service network separation and shutdown at the start of June. FR has successfully operated its own payroll since Autumn 2018 and now has a fully stand-alone HR and finance function in place.
Publish and implement FR’s new Strategy
Achieved: FR’s Strategy for Growth was published in March 2019.
Meet FR’s financial targets for income generation
Achieved: FR met its income targets for the year and made a small surplus.