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Elspeth’s research is focused on improving understanding of how tree growth, environmental factors and genetics affect the wood properties and timber utilisation. As a research fellow she is continuing to work with FR colleagues to help complete ongoing projects and publications, and to provide technical guidance and information in relation to past wood properties research and the wider forestry sector.

Elspeth has more than 30 years of experience working in the forestry sector and is a member of the Institute of Chartered Foresters. After several years working for the Forestry Commission in north Scotland, she joined Forest Research in 1997 to help develop a programme of research into the influence of silviculture on timber quality. She has led a range of projects relating to the assessment and prediction of wood and timber properties of tree species grown in the UK, and to the use of timber in construction. Between 2014 and 2021 she worked as a lecturer at the Scottish School of Forestry, at UHI Inverness. In September 2020 she re-joined FR to lead the Tree and Wood Properties research programme, a post she held until March 2024 when she became a research fellow.


  • Member of the Institute of Chartered Foresters
Forestry Staff Elspeth.2e16d0ba.fill 600x600 1

Elspeth Macdonald

BSc, MSc, PhD
Senior Scientist - Tree & Wood Properties


Northern Research Station

Bush Estate



Related Research


Tree and Wood Properties

Tree biomechanics applied to tree survival and forest products

Status current

Related Publications


Wood properties and uses of larch in Great Britain

This report collates and synthesises research into the production and use of larch timber in Great Britain, drawing on information from a range of published and unpublished studies. It is written for forest scientists, engineers, wood processors and end users of wood products who are seeking to determine the potential end uses of larch. The […]



Towards a timber quality model for Sitka spruce in Britain

Conference paper on the development of a timber quality model for British-grown Sitka spruce. Related pages Tree and Wood Properties Compression Wood Cell wall macromolecules and reaction wood (CEMARE)

Assessing the stem straightness of trees

Stem straightness is important in determining tree and log value. The ability to make an effective assessment before harvesting is useful for forest managers and practitioners to improve forecasting, planning, marketing and resource use. This Technical Note describes three methods for assessing stem straightness in standing trees: visual assessment, photogrammetric measurement and terrestrial lidar. It […]

Developing methods for assessing Scots pine timber quality

Timber production from Scots pine forests in Great Britain is forecast to increase over the next 15 years. This Research Note presents the results of a project to develop and test methods for assessing the quality of Scots pine timber from measurements on trees and logs. Six stands of Scots pine growing in the north […]

The implications of transformation to continuous cover forestry systems for conifer timber quality and log supply in the UK

Report on Scottish Forestry Trust-funded project to investigate implications for timber quality of transformation of uniform forests to irregular structures. Related pages Tree and Wood Properties Compression Wood Cell wall macromolecules and reaction wood (CEMARE)

Stem straightness in Sitka spruce in South Scotland

Report on a survey of stem straightness. Related pages Tree and Wood Properties Compression Wood Cell wall macromolecules and reaction wood (CEMARE)

Peer reviewed journal articles

Manso, R., Price, A., Ash, A., & Macdonald, E. (2024). Volume prediction of young improved Sitka spruce trees in Great Britain through Bayesian model averaging. Forestry: An International Journal of Forest Research.

Bowditch E.A.D. and Macdonald, E. (2021). The elm is dead! Long live the elm! New developments for elm conservation in Scotland. Scottish Forestry. 75(2) 29-38. (Awarded the Sir George Campbell Memorial Trophy for the best professional paper published in Scottish Forestry in 2021.)

Auty, D., Achim, A., Macdonald, E., Cameron, A.D. and Gardiner, B.A. (2016). Models for predicting clearwood mechanical properties of Scots pine. For. Sci. 62(4):403-413

Auty, D., Achim, A., Macdonald, E., Cameron, A.D. and Gardiner, B.A. 2014. Models for predicting wood density variation in Scots pine. Forestry, 87(3), 449–458.

Fonweban, J, Mavrou, I, Gardiner, B, & Macdonald, E. (2013). Modelling the effect of spacing and site exposure on spiral grain angle on Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis (Bong.) Carr.) in Northern Britain. Forestry, 86(3), 331–342. DOI: 10.1093/forestry/cpt002

Fonweban, J., Gardiner, B., Macdonald, E. and Auty, D. (2011). Taper functions for Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris, L.) and Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis (Bong.) Carr.) in Northern Britain. Forestry, 84 (1), 49-60. DOI: 10.1093/forestry/cpq043.

Macdonald, E., Gardiner, B.A. and Mason, W.L. (2010). The Effects of Transformation of Even-Aged Stands to Continuous Cover Silviculture on Conifer Log Quality and Wood Properties in the UK. Forestry, 83 (1) 1-16. DOI: 10.1093/forestry/cpp023.

Macdonald, E., Davies, B. and Gjerdrum, P. (2010) Developing the Scots pine resource: study tour to Norway. Scottish Forestry, 64(2), 16-25.

Macdonald, E., Mochan, S. and Connolly, T. (2009). Validation of a stem straightness scoring system for Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis (Bong.) Carr.). Forestry, 82 (4) 419-429. DOI: 10.1093/forestry/cpp011.

Moore, J., Gardiner, B., Ridley-Ellis, D., Jarvis, M., Mochan, S. and Macdonald, E. (2009). Getting the most out of the United Kingdom’s timber resource. Scottish Forestry, 63(3), pp.3-8.

Macdonald, E., Cooper, G., Davies, I. and Freke, B. (2008). Scots pine timber: current utilisation and future market prospects in Scotland. Scottish Forestry. 62(4) 12-21.

Macdonald, E. and Hubert, J. (2002). A Review of the Effects of Silviculture on the Timber Quality of Sitka  Spruce. Forestry, 75 (2) 107-138. (Awarded the 2002 Silvicultural prize by the journal Forestry.)

Macdonald, E. and Barrette, J., (2001). A Preliminary Study of Changes in Stem Straightness with Age in Sitka Spruce (Picea sitchensis (Bong.) Carr.). Scottish Forestry, 55(3), pp.135-140.


Technical publications

McLean, P., Ridley-Ellis, D., Price, A. and Macdonald, E. (2024). Wood properties and uses of larch in Great Britain. Research Report. Forest Research, Edinburgh i–iv + 1–32pp.

Price, A, Hapca, A, Gardiner, B, Macdonald, E & McLean, P. (2017). Assessing the stem straightness of trees: Technical Note. Forestry Commission, Edinburgh.

Macdonald, E., Moore, J., Connolly, T. and Gardiner, B. (2009). Developing methods for assessing Scots pine timber quality. Forestry Commission Research Note (FCRN005). Forestry Commission, Edinburgh.

Hubert, J., Gardiner, B., Macdonald, E. and Mochan, S., 2003. Stem straightness in Sitka spruce. Forest Research annual report and accounts. Forestry Commission, Edinburgh, pp.62-69.

Macdonald, E., Mochan, S. and Connolly, T., 2001. Protocol for stem straightness assessment in Sitka spruce. Forestry Commission Information Note 39. Forestry Commission, Edinburgh. 8p.