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Forest Enterprise England, Adaptation in Action

Our view of key issues

Our historic dependence on a few major tree species has left the public forest estate vulnerable to the impacts of increasing pest and disease outbreaks, made worse by climate change.

If we do not adapt our forest management to a changing and unpredictable climate, there is a risk that some 65% of the stands of trees making up the present day public forest estate may well become unsuitable for optimal timber production.

The infrastructure of roads, culverts and bridges across much of the estate may also need adapting to be able to cope with the projected increase in rainfall intensity.

Wetter winters could further limit our ability to bring timber to market affecting the country’s economy.

People’s enjoyment of the forest and recreation and leisure business may well be detrimentally affected by pest and disease outbreaks, floods and other adverse weather events.

How we are adapting and supporting adaptation

Forest Enterprise manages some 250,000ha of woodland and other habitats, provides 56% of England’s home-grown timber resource and hosts over 40 million public visits each year. As part of an ambition to increase forest resilience we are initiating a range of measures to ensure our forests are able to meet our objectives now and for the future. Because of our size, we believe that we have a pioneering role in demonstrating adaptation in practice.

What we are doing

We have published and are implementing a Climate Change Action Plan, (2011) for the Public Forest Estate, the key principles of which are:

•             Adopting the principle of anticipatory adaptation as a way ahead for forest resilience, and the benefits it might provide.

•             Taking an approach that is ‘not risk averse’ (that is, we will take considered risks as well as acting on proven facts).

We have substantially diversified the conifers we are planting as trials by adding a further 15 species to the 5 major species currently in use.

We are changing our Dothistroma needle blight affected stands by heavy thinning and under-planting with shade tolerant conifers. Case study, Thetford won the RFS award for excellence in forestry to climate change

We are moving away from plantation forestry towards more naturalistic forests, establishing compatible forest species that work together, determined by their ecology and underlying soils, and with greater reliance on restocking through natural regeneration and regrowth.

Where planting is required to regenerate our native broadleaved forests we are introducing select seed from a wider range of provenances. Case study, South District, are using ‘select’ planting stock of oak from the Loire valley.

 Diagram showing assisted migration of native trees 

We are increasing culvert capacity by 20% and working at a catchment scale. Both will help alleviate flooding and maintain wetland habitats. Case study, slowing the flow project around Pickering

We are investing in renewable sources of energy to reduce our environmental footprint, which beneficially reduces our running costs.

We are putting in place and implementing plans to reduce the human and economic risks associated with pest and disease outbreaks around our main visitor centres.

Our intended outcomes for 2020

We aim to have an increased diversity of species, a wider range of genetic variation, and a wider range of age classes across the estate. We will have secured sources of tree seed and seedlings to support our resilience programme.

We will be engaged in a comprehensive tree health surveillance programme, working with Forest Research, Forest Services and other forestry sector organisations.

By adapting forest stands and other contingency measures, people’s ability to enjoy the estate and the associated recreational economy are more secure.

Upgraded specifications for Forest infrastructure (to meet future rainfall projections and other adverse weather events) will be implemented during routine maintenance.

All Forest Plans have been revised to accommodate adaptation actions.