to Forestry Commission home page
to Forest Research home page
Forest Research home > Research > Forest management

Integrated establishment systems for the uplands


PICEA SITCHENSIS. Sitka spruce on a ploughed restocking site, Speymouth, Highland, ScotlandThis research project aims to underpin the delivery of a robust woodland resource through the development of tools and advice that assist practical management decisions across all aspects of the tree establishment process.

Based on an understanding of the physiological processes that determine growth and survival, and of the response of seedling trees to environmental stimuli, this research addresses the impacts of silvicultural decisions from nursery production to canopy closure, with a particular focus on upland sites and includes:

  • Investigation of tree nursery production systems
  • Development of plant quality assessment tools
  • Provision of best practice advice to promote sustainable site establishment practices
  • Research into novel tree establishment techniques.

Research objectives

Investigations into:

  • Techniques for quality broadleaf woodland establishment for timber production on former conifer sites.
  • Systems for upland PAWS restoration and farm woodlands for shelter and agroforestry.
  • Silviculture of eucalyptus species for short rotation forestry.
  • Improving poor outplanting survival of species such as Scots pine.
  • The use of alternative nurse species for Sitka spruce on nutrionally poor sties, as substitutes for lodgepole pine mixtures or fertiliser applications
  • Designing woodlands for resilience to future climate change – e.g. silvicultural use of long term mixtures, and alterative species
  • Dissemination of project outputs using the Establishment Management Information System (EMIS) decision support system.

Establishment Management Information System (EMIS) decision support system

The effect of many individual factors upon establishment success are reasonably well understood (e.g. nutrition, weed control) but the interactions between such factors have only been studied to a limited degree. Recent surveys continue to indicate a widespread failure to achieve satisfactory planting density, particularly on second rotation restock sites.

Currently a major effort is underway to address these concerns: we are developing a computer-based decision support system (EMIS) which provides guidance for managers by matching species to site factors and by highlighting the most appropriate silvicultural establishment strategies.

Furthermore continued research is aimed at developing predictive models of tree establishment and growth for the UK, which will ultimately to allow ‘life-cycle’ cost-benefit analysis of establishment practices.


Funders and partners

Forestry Commission logo
This research is funded by the Forestry Commission Integrated Establishment Systems programme.

EU flag
Additional funding is currently received from the European Commission which funds work in the COLDTREE and OAKFLOW projects.

Forestry Commission policy

British forestry policy supports the protection and expansion of Britain's forests, woodland and trees and promotes the production of high quality timber. There is an obligation to replant woodland which is felled and new planting is encouraged on land which is surplus to the requirements of agricultural production. New and existing woodlands should provide multiple benefits and must be sustainable.
Forestry Commission policy for sustainable forestry


This research is ongoing at is reviewed at regular intervals.


Mike Perks