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This long term programme of research aims to provide insights about the motivations, decision-making processes and actions of owners, managers and businesses to support woodland creation and resilient forest management.

Around 75% of forest land in Great Britain is owned privately. A majority of these private owners have holdings of less than 10 hectares in size. If they do not manage the forest themselves, owners use small scale private contractors and businesses to undertake forestry operations. As well as considering existing woodland, national governments have identified the need to expand forest cover through the creation of new woodland. Private owners of land, including farmers, are a key target. Understanding the behaviour of so many owners, managers and businesses presents a significant challenge to those organisations and agencies looking to support woodland creation, sustainable and resilient forest management, as well as those developing measures and strategies to influence behaviour.

Research objectives

  • To understand the decision-making processes and land-use strategies that underpin the forestry related behaviour of private landowners, managers and small forestry businesses
  • To investigate understanding of, and acceptability of management practices that would deliver improved forest resilience
  • To identify innovative forest management approaches and practices amongst private landowners that address current challenges to forest resilience
  • To clarify how best the forestry sector can engage and communicate with private landowners, managers and small businesses to achieve policy goals.


Understanding different kinds of owners and managers

  • Private landowners can be characterised using typologies and segmentation models that include their management objectives and values.
  • Typologies and segmentation models are linked with adaptive behaviour, but they do not wholly explain actual behaviour or account for the nuance of responses to environmental change. There is potential for DEFRA’s behaviour model (based on Theory of Reasoned Action/Theory of Planned Behaviour) to provide additional insights.
  • Land management decisions are influenced by a wide range of social, economic, environmental and operational considerations. These multiple dimensions must be considered if engagement with landowners is to be effective in terms of policy delivery.

Forest resilience: Understanding and action

  • Many owners recognise climate change is likely to affect their woodlands, but just as many are uncertain of the vulnerability of their woodlands. Consequently private owners are not generally convinced of the need to adapt their forestry practices.
  • Resilience is a difficult concept with multiple understandings and is largely associated with perceptions of risk and the perceived efficacy of response. The risks associated with changing management practice or creating new woodland may be assessed as greater than the risk of “business as usual”.
  • Forest pests and tree diseases are considered most immediate problems. Deer and squirrels are a particular problem recognised by owners, whilst pathogens and invertebrate pests are more often the concern of professional managers and small businesses.
  • The limited evidence of innovation amongst owners and managers is related to experimental plantings of novel species.

Uptake and impact of advice

  • Information and advice is cited as a major barrier to decision-making and risk assessment in the context of resilience.
  • Trusted and influential sources of information and advice with the potential to impact behaviour include: other woodland owners, forestry agents and consultants, organisations such as the Royal Forestry Society, the Forestry Commission and Forest Research.
  • Advice relating to pest and disease outbreaks dominates what owners and managers find easy to locate and use.
  • However, information, advice and knowledge dealing with longer term resilience issues, e.g. responses to climate change, is more difficult to access and apply. Owners and managers suggest this advice is contradictory and confusing, or neglects economic and social/cultural considerations, so it seems unrelated to their small-scale holdings and operations. Uncertainty about such guidance represents a risk and therefore a barrier to changing practice.
  • Multiple forms of information and advice, delivered through different platforms, including face-to-face discussion, field visits, demonstrations, web-based resources and printed documents, together contribute to owner, manager and small business decision-making. An assessment pathway, or different “stages of change” supported by these resources, builds confidence and feelings of being able to act that can lead to behaviour change.

Outputs (2015-2019)

Ambrose-Oji, B., 2019, Characterising land managers to support woodland creation efforts in Scotland, Research Summary produced for Forestry Scotland and the Central Scotland Green Network.

Ambrose- Oji, B., Atkinson, G. and Petr, M. 2019. Woodland managers’ understanding of resilience and their future information needs. Research Note FCRN036, Forestry Commission, Edinburgh, p. 10.

Ambrose- Oji, B., Atkinson, G., Pecurul, M. and Petr, M. 2018. Differentiating between land managers for understanding of “resilience”, and factors influencing decision-making. Forest Research, Farnham, Surrey, p. 38.

O’Brien, L., Ambrose-Oji, B., Hemery, G., Petrokofsky, G., and Raum, S. 2018, Payments for ecosystem services, land manager networks and social learning. Forest Research, Farnham

Hemery, G, Petrokofsky, G, Ambrose-Oji, B, Edwards, D, O’Brien, L, Tansley, C and Townsend, M 2018 Shaping the Future of Forestry: Report of the British Woodlands Survey 2017. Sylva Foundation, Oxford.

Atkinson, G and Ambrose- Oji, B 2017 What do forest managers want to know about adaptation? Forest Research, Farnham, Surrey.

Ambrose- Oji, B., Pecurul, M., and O’Brien, L., 2017, Understanding small woodland owners and managers in the UK: Evidence to promote resilient behaviour change? Presentation at IUFRO 125th Anniversary Congress international conference Freiburg, September 18th – 22nd 2017

Ambrose- Oji, B & Tidey, P, 2017, Woodland Creation Grant Uptake Study. Forest Research report to Forestry Commission England. 30pp

Ambrose- Oji, B., 2016, Reaching New Audiences. Evaluation of knowledge events for small forestry businesses. Forest Research report to Forestry Commission England. 61pp

Hemery, G., Petrokofsky, G., Ambrose-Oji, B., Atkinson, G., Broadmeadow, M., Edwards, D., Harrison, C., Lloyd, S., Mumford, J., O’Brien, L., Reid, C., Seville, M., Townsend, M., Weir, J., and Yeomans, A., 2015, Awareness, action and aspiration amongst Britain’s forestry community relating to environmental change: Report of the British Woodlands Survey 2015. 32pp

Outputs (2010-2014)

Landowners’ attitudes to woodland creation and management in the UK: a review of current evidence

Prospects for new productive woodland in Scotland: Insights from stakeholders

Human dimensions of adaptive forest management

Woodfuel: social and economic dimensions


This research work is ongoing as part of Forest Research’s current Science and Innovation Strategy and cuts across Programme 1, Programme 3 and Programme 4.


Bianca Ambrose-Oji

Funders and partners

Work on this research is funded by the Forestry Commission Great Britain, Forestry Commission England, and the devolved Forestry Commission organisations. Partners include the Sylva Foundation.

Forestry Commission policy

Devolved forestry policy is widely committed to supporting forestry on private land, expanding the woodland resource, and ensuring resilient forest management amongst forest and woodland owners, managers and businesses. Policy support is set out in the following documents:

Defra and Forestry Commission England’s policy statement and Corporate Plan

The Forestry Commission Scotland’s’ Scottish Forest Strategy and Implementation Plan

NRW and Welsh Government’s Woodlands for Wales and Action Plan

Brownfield site investigation procedures for greenspace development

Evaluating bioindicators and assessment techniques for greenspace development on brownfield sites

Cost-effective landscaping and greenspace development require detailed studies of site ecology and history along with its physical and chemical liabilities, opportunities and constraints. Brownfield sites require extra surveys to inform decontamination procedures and the preservation of industrial archaeology and important ecological habitats. Forest Research tested a range of techniques in the field to draw up a set of recommended procedures for brownfield site investigations.


This research began in 2003 and was completed in 2007.

Findings and Recommendations

  • A set of suitable bio-indicators for flora establishment
  • Recommendations on in situ techniques for measuring soil metal concentrations
  • Site investigation guidelines and procedures to establish greenspace
  • A framework for assessing the environmental impact of pollutants in the urban environment

Our Involvement

The Forest Research team trialled a range of on-site investigation techniques and approaches. This field work fed into the team’s development of an environmental impact assessment framework for urban pollution as part of a larger collaborative research project to develop a conceptual framework for pollutants in the urban environment.


Kieron Doick

Further Information

Urban Regeneration and Greenspace Partnership

Reports and publications

Increasing timber production from small private woodlands in England: effectiveness of initiatives (PDF-243 KB)

Summary of research investigating adaptation to climate change amongst private sector woodland managers in Wales.

Prospects for new productive woodland in Scotland:insights from stakeholders (2014) (PDF-3008 KB)

Is the private forest sector adapting to climate change? A study of forest managers in north Wales
Annals of Forest Science, Volume 71, March 2014

Private landowners’ approaches to planting and managing forests in the UK: What’s the evidence? Land Use Policy, Volume 36, January 2014

Interventions to increase timber production (PDF- 5Mb) (2013) & Appendices (PDF-2 MB)

Land-manager Identification and Engagement for Forestry (PDF-503 KB)
Brief research summary including background, objectives, methods, findings and recommendations.

Land-manager Networks and Segmentation (PDF-455 KB)
Brief research summary including background, objectives, methods, findings and recommendations.

Land Management Networks Project Work Package 1 Final Report: Landscape Scale Method to Identify and Engage Land Managers (PDF-3948 KB)
Research report describing and testing a systematic method for the identification and engagement of private landowners for forestry at the landscape scale.

Land Management Networks Project Work Package 2 Final Report: Network Analysis and Segmentation (PDF-1737 KB)
Research report providing an outline network analysis of professional forestry social networks and scoping a segmentation approach based on land manager’s connectivity within these networks. This research uses data relating to the Northern Devon Nature Improvement Area.

Understanding private land-manager decision-making: A framework for forestry (PDF-1120 KB)
Full report of research aimed at providing a framework within which to understand the complexities of private land-management decision-making.

Developing effective methods for identifying woodland owners: an Oxfordshire pilot study (PDF-4857K)
A study aimed at identifying and demonstrating cost and time efficient methods of identifying woodland owners.

Development of bio-indicators for landscape flora establishment

Why develop bio-indicators?


lreg_bioindicators.gif Currently no technique to determine the ecotoxicological impact of soil-borne contaminants to trees or landscape flora exists. This means that a significant proportion of expenditure from a reclamation budget is used to clean-up contamination to generic levels. This is unnecessary, environmentally and financially costly, and often leads to a reduced quality of the final landscape. In addition, traditional methods of assessing the phytoavailability of potentially toxic elements in soils are difficult to interpret and are often contradictory.


This research began in 2003 and is due for completion in 2007.

Research Objectives

Forest Research in collaboration with ARUP, aims to develop and refine a biological indicator methodology for assessing the feasibility and risk-benefit of direct vegetation establishment on contaminated land.

The main objectives are:

  • To determine whether the ‘indicator’ methodology developed in a nursery environment is effective at predicting the success of vegetation establishment on contaminated sites.
  • To determine whether the ‘indicator’ methodology is responsive enough to identify phytoavailable contaminant ‘hotspots’.
  • To determine whether the ‘indicator’ methodology can effectively be used to test the efficacy of soil amendments at increasing plant growth whilst reducing potentially toxic element (PTE) toxicity
  • To test whether the uptake and compartmentation of metals in the biomass of the indicator species can be used as an effective indicator of how other tree species will compartmentalise metal contaminants. If the methodology is successful at meeting this objective it will address two fundamental issues:
    • It will determine the viability of phytoremediation technologies at removing or stabilising contaminants
    • It will act as an indicator of the risk of contaminants becoming available to primary consumers through the ingestion of plant material containing elevated concentrations of PTEs.
  • To provide working examples showing the efficacy of the indicator methodology for reducing waste production and remedial costs of redevelopment works, whilst improving the quality of the final landscape.


Kieron Doick

Related services

Plant, tree, soil and water testing

Useful sites

Ecological Impact Assessment (EIA) of pollutants in the urban environment

Research overview

Forest Research is a member of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Pollutants in the Urban Environment (PUrE) Research Consortium.

The mission of this EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) Pollutants in the Urban Environment (PUrE) Research Consortium project is to enable valid and transparent assessments of sustainable development scenarios by providing an improved scientific understanding of the behaviour and impacts of pollutants in the urban environment.

This will be achieved through the development of a decision-support framework capable of integrating the three critical steps defined by the consortium partners:

  1. Mapping the sources and flows of pollutants associated with human activities in the urban environment
  2. Modelling the fate and transport of pollutants in the environment
  3. Identifying and quantifying the impacts of pollutants on human and ecological health in the urban environment.

The PUrE framework will consist of three levels for problem analysis: Simple, Generic and Detailed.

Forest Research is responsible for the development of the Ecological Impacts Assessment framework within the overall framework and software platform.

We are involved with three aspects of the overall project:

  • Core project
  • Demonstration of the PUrE framework for mixtures of pollutants
  • Development of models for detailed problem analysis.

Funders and partners

The PUrE consortium is funded by:

Members of the consortium include:

Members of the Steering Committee include:


This research began in 2005 and is due for completion in 2009.

Research Objectives

Core project

This aims to establish the initial levels of the framework. These Generic and Simple levels will concentrate on the use of datasets and simple vegetation uptake models for the assessment of risk to terrestrial ecosystem receptors.

Demonstration of the PUrE framework for mixtures of pollutants

This will demonstrate steps 1 and 2 of the PUrE framework using particulate pollution as a case study, and will provide data for subsequent model development and validation.

Forest Research is responsible for assessing both the impacts of particulate pollution on terrestrial ecological receptors and the potential for using trees and other vegetation to intercept particles from air thus improving urban air quality.

More information about the demonstration of the PUrE framework

Development of models for detailed problem analysis

This will develop the more detailed levels of the framework (Simple and Detailed). It will concentrate on the use of models to predict food-chain transfer of pollutants in terrestrial urban ecosystems.


Kieron Doick

Related services

Plant, tree, soil and water testing

Demonstration of the Pollutants in the Urban Environment (PUrE) framework

Overall objective

It is vital that we can demonstrate that the PUrE framework is able to deal with real life scenarios. This project will utilise the models, and provide data for further model development, from the development of the Ecological Impact Assessment (EIA) of pollutants in the urban environment framework to demonstrate that PUrE provides a robust modelling and decision framework for dealing with these kinds of issues.

This project will use particulate pollution as an example. The sources of particulates studied will include traffic and an industrial source.

Using particulate pollution as an example

Particulate matter contains a mixture of pollutants, but the effects have primarily been studied by size rather than by composition; therefore, research on particles could be significantly improved by applying an updated and integrated approach.

For PUrE the upper size of particles will be limited to those that can be readily transported via air dispersion or suspension in flowing water. This will involve a more thorough characterisation of the particles (e.g. chemical, physical, biological properties, etc.), mapping of sources and movements, and an integrated assessment of the associated human and ecological health effects/risks.

The Forest Research component will determine the composition and bioavailability of particulate contaminants and assess their associated risk to ecological health. There are two primary components:

  • A quantification of the composition, transport and bioavailability of particulates in ecological receptors
  • A validation of models to predict particulate interception by vegetation.

Quantification of particulates in ecological receptors

This will use indicator vegetation species planted along a particulate gradient. The species selected will include those common in urban greening.

The vegetation tissue compartments will be analysed for their metal content, both before and after washing, to assess the amount of particulate adhered to the tissue surface and that transported within the plant.

In addition, a range of primary plant consumers will be used to assess the food-chain transport of particulate pollution. These will be related to air sampling data collected from the study sites.

Validation of models

The use of vegetation to mitigate particulate pollution has been recognised for a number of years. Models have been developed to predict the potential dry deposition of particles to urban tree planting.

This component of the project will validate and, if necessary, refine these models using air sampling data from an urban greenspace in London.

The results of this work will test existing models and refine those being developed during the development of the EIA framework and will provide a dataset for inclusion in the databases supporting the software.


Kieron Doick

Related services

Plant, tree, soil and water testing

Development of Ecological Impact Assessment (EIA) framework for pollutants in the urban environment

Why is a framework required?

The impacts of development, both past and future, on urban and peri-urban ecosystems must be considered during the planning process. An examination the effects on habitat destruction and fragmentation and the potential loss of biodiversity is an integral part of this process.

However, the detrimental effect of the pollutants arising from some activities on ecosystems is seldom investigated, particularly where the pollutant loading on an area may already be high from an accumulation of a number of sources or an industrial legacy.

Forest Research is currently developing the EIA component of the Pollutants in the Urban Environment (PUrE) framework to enable users to quantify the influence of pollutants in the urban environment on terrestrial ecosystem health and function.

Structure of the framework

The EIA will consist of three Levels:

  • Generic
  • Simple
  • Detailed.

These align with the tiers in the proposed Environment Agency Ecological Risk Assessment Guidance for Contaminated Land.

This iterative framework means that the user can exit the process when the objectives of the assessment have been met; i.e. when enough information has been gathered. If uncertainties are unacceptable the user progresses to the next level/s which requires more data but yields a more certain risk assessment result.

Generic level

At the Generic level the user will be able to compare measured or ‘typical’ soil concentrations with Soil Screening Values, where available, or NOEC (No Observed Effect Concentration), LOEC (Lowest Observed Effect Concentration), EC (Effect Concentration) and LC (Lethal Concentration) values from the literature.

Simple level

Depending on the outcome of the above analysis and the objectives of the user, they may then progress through a tiered structure to the Simple level, using recommended ecotoxicological tests and more complex databases containing detailed information on the derivation of the EC and LC values (e.g. soil properties, species, test conditions) and simple models to predict metal uptake into vegetation.

Detailed level

Finally, in the Detailed level, the user will be able to examine the potential for food-chain transfer of pollutants from a combination of ecotoxicological tests and models.

Why ecotoxicological tests are also required

In addition to the above, the proposed Environment Agency guidance has a selection of toxicity tests that are recommended for the Ecological Risk Assessment process. These methods include assessments of soil microbial function, soil invertebrate function and vegetation germination and growth.

However, these tests have originally been developed for use in agricultural systems (e.g. during pesticide approval) and, as a result, often use species not indicative of those likely to be present in urban greenspace.

They also provide assessments of ecological function and do not consider the food-chain transfer of contaminants. In some species of vegetation the concentrations of a contaminant may be higher in the plant tissue than in the soil in which it is growing. This has serious implications for the long term assessment of the cycling of contaminants during litter fall which are not an issue when considering crop species.

Forest Research is currently developing a range of ecotoxicological tests that use both species relevant to urban scenarios and take into account food-chain transfer.


Kieron Doick

Related services

Plant, tree, soil and water testing


What’s of interest

Sylva Foundation, British Woodland Survey series

Behavioural policy ‘nudges’ to encourage woodland creation for climate change mitigation

Behaviour change in the forestry sector

Related pages

Useful sites

Forestry Staff Bianca Ambrose Oji.509e510b.fill 600x600 1
Bianca Ambrose-Oji

Science group leader