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Natural colonisation occurs when tree seed reaches a site and establishes where woodland has not recently existed. This differs from natural regeneration where new trees establish within existing woodland or where woodland has recently been located.
Supporting woodland expansion through such natural processes, is another method with potential to contribute to current tree cover establishment targets. Natural colonisation has several potential benefits including reduced costs, increased biodiversity value and natural matching of trees/genetic stock to sites (Hutchings and Quine, 2021). However, evidence of the full range of outcomes associated with natural colonisation across different sites, and over different timescales is limited. Interdisciplinary studies investigating and quantifying the benefits and dis-benefits of natural colonisation, alongside the attitudes of landowners and managers towards this expansion strategy are lacking.
Our research addresses these evidence gaps through three strands working on shared range of sites of across land in predominately agricultural contexts:
The research began in 2021/22. A review of existing evidence was completed in 2021 and indicated that:
Other results from the project are described for each of the science workstreams.
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