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Soil and carbon science of natural colonisation

A review of the literature found very little information on how carbon in woodland natural colonisation areas compares to planted areas of similar age.  This part of the wider study set out to provide estimates of both tree biomass and soil carbon on natural colonised sites compared to adjacent tree planting of similar age.


Areas of natural colonisation established within agriculturally dominated landscapes and initiated with the previous 10-20 years were selected. Each of the sites contained three distinct areas of woodland:

  • an area of mature existing woodland (as a potential source woodland)
  • an adjacent area of natural colonisation
  • an area of supplementary tree planting (planting adjacent to natural colonisation) or control planting (planting nearby, but not adjacent to the natural colonisation).

At least three rectangular transects were used to capture spatial variation across the different areas. All sampling took place within these transects: the whole transect was divided into sub-transects for terrestrial laser scanning and photogrammetry flights (results to be presented in the next phase of the project) and plots positioned along the transect were used to manually sample tree size and species, as well as other vegetation cover. Soil samples were taken across the same transects.

Research objectives

  • To quantify the above ground and below ground carbon sequestration potential of woodland expansion through natural colonisation

Latest updates

Preliminary findings and Latest updates to June 2022

Soil samples have been collected and are currently being analysed.  Vegetation biomass has been quantified along each transect using traditional methods and terrestrial laser scanning and photogrammetry flights have been undertaken

Research Status
Senior Biogeochemist / Soil Sustainability Research Leader
Forestry Staff Vanguelova Elena.2e16d0ba.fill 600x600 1
Funding & partners
  • defralogo2013 smdefra
  • Forestry Commission