Challenges from the changing physical environment require continuing research to develop resilience and robustness of British woodland. Both new and existing woodlands must be safeguarded against the additional stresses, which the changing environment will place upon them. Insights afforded through understanding the resilience of planting stock at a genetic level will provide answers to safeguard our forests and the ecosystem services they provide now and in the future.
Capacity for resilience is critical not only within our woodlands but also at a landscape scale. Our considerable capability in modelling at landscape scale must now be strongly linked to other UK and European research to address such problems as spatial planning, habitat fragmentation, gene flow, and dispersal and colonisation of species – both desirable and undesirable. This research is embracing new opportunities offered through novel applications of genetic technologies. The woodland environment offers sanctuary to many species. However, if we are to ensure that the quality of these habitats is not adversely impacted by increased pressure from species, both native and non-native, we must renew our research efforts in the areas of herbivore impacts and invasive species.
The restoration of natural and semi-natural habitats, and their associated species, is a major policy objective across the world stimulated by the Convention on Biological Diversity. The desirability of restoration is strongly advocated in EU and British environmental policies, including the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, the EU Habitats Directive and the EU Forestry Strategy. The Forestry Commission was a co-founder of the Global Partnership on Forest Landscape Restoration. Delivering effective restoration is not straightforward and requires co-ordinated research by a wide range of agencies on techniques for restoring threatened habitats that have been inappropriately managed. A particular concern for the forestry and woodlands sector is the restoration of ancient woodland sites that have been converted to plantation forestry. We will continue to play our part in research directed at conservation and restoration, and will support cross-departmental co-ordinating bodies such as the UK Biodiversity Research Advisory Group, the Environmental Research Funders’ Forum, and others.
Links to the ecosystems and biodiversity research projects are listed below.