Landscape ecology

Fragmented woodlands in a landscape. Lowland Exmoor. Somerset. South West England ConservancySummary

Landscape ecology is an exciting and rapidly evolving discipline that is highly relevant to the ecology and management of British forests.

  • The Forestry Commission recognises the need to consider biodiversity in modern multi-use forestry.
  • Biodiversity is threatened by the fragmentation of woodland and other semi-natural habitats. Fragmentation affects both the physical structure of the landscape and its ecological function for the species within it. 
  • Biodiversity protection is most effective when actions at the landscape scale are combined with site-based measures.
  • Landscape ecology research can be applied to modern forestry and landscape management through the effective targeting and evaluation of landscape change.

Research objectives

  • DEVELOP our approach to landscape scale biodiversity action using the most advanced scientific principles.
  • CONSTRUCT a suite of tools for landscape scale biodiversity analysis.
  • APPLY, evaluate and refine the tools using real case study landscapes, covering a range of scales and issues. Each case study has a direct application for (and is often commissioned by) forest managers.
  • EXPAND our knowledge of species-landscape interactions. 
  • DELIVER a suite of user-friendly tools to help Forestry Commission and other land management agencies deal with strategic and operational issues.

Funders and partners

Forestry Commission logo
This work has been developed through core funding from the Forestry Commission Habitat management, protected species, biodiversity, genetic conservation and forest reproductive materials programme, and contract research funded by:

Forestry Commission policy

The need to conserve woodland biodiversity and combat habitat fragmentation is a key element of the biodiversity and forestry strategies for the UK. This originates from the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992, from which followed the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Resolution for the Conservation of Biodiversity in European Forests signed in Helsinki in 1993.

In addition the UK Government developed the Biodiversity: the UK Action Plan and in 1995 published the Species Action Plans and Habitat Action Plans, which conclude that:

"One of the principal threats identified in many of the species conservation action plans is that posed by habitat fragmentation."

The Forestry Commission's Forestry Strategy Documents for the devolved countries of England, Scotland and Wales outline the threat of biodiversity loss from habitat fragmentation. In particular, the strategies for Scotland and Wales stress the need for woodland expansion in the form of habitat networks, to protect woodland biodiversity.

Publications and articles

Future developments

Related Forest Research programmes

The rural and urban landscape ecology (ruLE) group is a wider group within Forest Research including researchers who cover a range of landscape scale issues.

Status

The programme began in 1999 and is ongoing.

Contact

Kevin Watts