Robert Matthews, BSc, MSc

Programme Group Manager

Robert Matthews

Email: robert.matthews@

Tel: +44 (0)300 067 5600
Tel direct: +44 (0)300 067 5682
Fax: +44 (0)1420 23653

Forest Research
Alice Holt Lodge
Surrey GU10 4LH

Robert has worked at Forest Research for 25 years and is an authority on forest mensuration, growth and yield.  Currently he works as a Programme Group Manager in the Centre for Forest Resources and Management. He is also an internationally recognised expert on forest carbon dynamics, with particular interest on the greenhouse gas impacts of forest management and wood utilisation options. He co-authored one of the first research publications in this area in 1989.  He has also published widely on the potential of UK-produced biomass energy. He holds an honours degree in biophysics from the University of East Anglia and a research MSc in bioengineering from the University of Birmingham.

Current role

Programme Group Manager

Robert leads the Forest Resource Modelling and Forecasting programme, which comprises a large and diverse portfolio of research projects. Currently a research team of around 8 staff contributes to the delivery of programme outputs.

He also leads work within the Forestry Commssion project Managing Forest Carbon (ManForC) on the development of methodologies for the assessment of forest carbon stocks and the design, implementation and application of forest carbon accounting models.

As part of the programme, Robert secures, manages and delivers a range of externally-funded projects which vary in size, complexity and duration. A common theme in all work undertaken within the programme involves the development and application of methodologies and models that can be used to quantify and improve the economic and environmental performance of forestry systems.

Robert frequently serves as a representative on Forestry Commission, external and international committees and working groups. He regularly makes presentations at regional, national and international meetings and conferences.

Current programmes

The main Forestry Commission projects within the Forest Resource Modelling and Forecasting programme are Modelling and Forecasting Forest Resources (managed by Robert) and Forest Mensuration Systems (managed by Ian Craig).

Modelling and Forecasting Forest Resources

Aims to deliver forecast systems that work at the estate, regional and national levels, needed to predict long-term trends in production and development of the growing stock.

Forest Mensuration Systems

Aims to deliver methodologies for the assessment of properties of woodlands and trees.

Managing Forest Carbon (ManForC)

Robert and the team have supported the launch of the Forestry Commission’s Woodland Carbon Code (WCC), including the development of practical woodland carbon assessment methodologies and the preparation of look-up tables giving estimates of rates of carbon sequestration for a range of new woodland types in terms of species, growth rate and management. Robert also contributed to guidance given on the WCC website on how to account for soil carbon stock changes due to creation of new woodlands.

Other research projects

These include the following being undertaken or completed as part of the programme during 2011:

  • UK Emissions by Sources and Removals by Sinks due to Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry Activities (Funded by Defra, led and managed by the Centre for Ecology and Hyrdrology):
    Robert leads contributions by Forest Research to the estimation of forest sector greenhouse gas inventories and projections.
  • Research Project in Support of the Renewable Obligation (Scotland) Consultation on the Best Use of Biomass (funded by the Scottish Government and Forestry Commission Scotland):
    Robert has coordinated work by teams at Forest Research and North Energy Associates to model the consequences for greenhouse gas balances of using harvested wood for different applications (e.g. sawn timber, panelboard, fuel), as relevant to Scottish forestry.
  • Carbon impacts of using biomass in bioenergy and other sectors (funded by DECC):
    Robert has coordinated work by teams at Forest Research, North Energy Associates and ADAS to model the consequences for greenhouse gas balances of using harvested wood for different applications (e.g. sawn timber, panelboard, fuel), as relevant to UK forestry. including the option of not harvesting wood.
  • Consideration of the treatment of Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) in developed countries under the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol (funded by DECC, coordinated by AEA):
    Robert and his team led work on the construction of baseline projections of forest sector carbon balances for the key Annex I countries of the Kyotp Protocol, covering the period 1990 to 2050 and beyond. Estimates of potential for mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions through forestry activities were also estimated for these countries.
  • Policy Options for Including LULUCF in the Community Reduction Commitment and Policy Instruments for Increasing GHG Mitigation Efforts in the LULUCF and Agriculture Sectors (funded by the European Commission and coordinated by Alterra, Netherlands):
    Robert and his team made a major contribution to this project which reviewed the Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) sector, and identified, developed and assessed policy options for increasing mitigation efforts within the EU.
  • Reconciling LULUCF accounting with modelled mitigation targets (funded by the DECC/Defra AVOID programme, led by Bristol University):
    Robert and his team contributed to the analysis and interpretation of UNFCCC reports on greenhouse gas inventories for the Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) sector and the accounting rules for forestry as specified under the Kyoto Protocol.
  • Biomass System Value Chain Modelling (funded by the Energy Technologies Institute and coordinated by E4tech and Imperial College):
    Robert leads contributions on the modelling of biomass resource potentials of forestry systems.
  • Estimating the wood fuel potential of Woolhope Dome (funded by the Woolhope Dome Project Partnership):
    Robert and the team developed methodologies to enable the local assessment of potential for harvesting wood fuel on a sustainable basis, using the Woolhope Dome region in Herefordshire as a case study. An assessment was also made of the actual potential for wood fuel production from Woolhope Dome woodlands.

Affiliations and achievements

  • Serves as a representative on the Forestry Commission’s Carbon Advisory Group and Ad-hoc Working Group on Forest Carbon Data, and is an occasional contributor to proceedings of the Private Sector (Forest) Data Working Group.
  • Previously has served as a representative on the Forestry Commission Inventory and Forecast Statistical Methodology Working Group and Production Forecast Working Group.
  • Attends meetings of the the Forestry Commission’s GB Harvesting and Marketing Officers and the Inventory, Forecasting and Operational Support Service Board as an adviser on an ad-hoc basis
  • Served as UK National Team Leader for IEA Bioenergy Task 38 (Greenhouse Gas Balances of Biomass and Bioenergy Systems), and was lead editor/author of a high-impact popular article on bioenergy, carbon sinks and their role in global climate change produced by the Task.
  • Has acted as official UK representative and/or expert at a number of international meetings:
    • During 2010 and 2011, on behalf of DECC and/or the Forestry Commission, he attended three IPCC International Expert Meetings addressing aspects of Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry
    • In 2009 he made a presentation at the official UK side-event organised during a meeting of the IPCC Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technical Advice, held in Bonn
    • Most recently he attended as formal UK representative on behalf of the Foreign Office and presented a paper at the International Scientific Conference on Innovations and Technologies in Forestry, held in St. Petersburg in March 2011, organised by the Federal Forestry Agency and the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation..

Research areas

Forest resource evaluation

Robert is lead author of Forest Mensuration, the UK national standard text on tree and forest measurement methods and coauthor of the official 2006 quinquennial UK timber production forecast, the latter forming a direct contribution to EU and FAO published statistics on forest and timber resources. He has developed state of the art models for predicting forest growth and timber yield, which are already in daily use by forest practitioners in the UK. He is a regular participant in scientific conferences on forest mensuration, growth and yield organised by the International Union of Forest Research Organisations (IUFRO).

Forest carbon dynamics

Robert has made a seminal contribution to scientific understanding of the role of forests, forest management and timber utilisation in the carbon balance, and was coauthor one of the first statements on this subject. He developed the first analytical forest carbon accounting model, CARBINE, in 1988. He presented one of the first quantitative analyses of the roles of timber in material and bioenergy substitution in 1992, demonstrating the potential national scale significance and implications for carbon accounting in 1994. He has contributed to both popular articles and international scientific debates on the roles of forests in climate change mitigation.

Biomass and bioenergy

Robert has made an internationally recognised contribution to the evaluation of biomass and bioenergy production and utilisation systems. He produced practical models of forest biomass development and yield in 1991, leading to the development of a generalised methodology for assessing and predicting forest biomass and potential. He also developed the energy and greenhouse gas flowcharts and spreadsheets for SRC and forestry systems presented in a benchmark DTI report published in 2003. Recently he has contributed to the development of the Environment Agency’s BEAT2 software tool for estimating greenhouse gas emissions associated with biomass use, to include examples of bioenergy supplied from UK and international forestry sources. Currently, research undertaken for the Scottish Government, the Forestry Commission and DECC aims to clarify how forests and harvested wood can be used effectively as carbon stocks, energy feedstocks and as a source of materials to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Main recent publications

Morison, J., Matthews, R., Miller, G., Perks, M., Randle, T., Vanguelova, E., White, M. and Yamulki, S. (2012). Understanding the carbon and greenhouse gas balance of forests in Britain (PDF-7422K). Forestry Commission Research Report 18. Forestry Commission, Edinburgh. i–vi + 1–149 pp.

Whittaker, C., Mortimer, N., Murphy, R. and Matthews, R. (2011). Energy and greenhouse gas balance of the use of forest residues for bioenergy production in the UK. Biomass and Bioenergy, 35, 4581-4594.

Matthews, R.W. and Broadmeadow, M.S.J. (2009). The potential of UK forestry to contribute to Government’s emissions reduction commitments. In: Read, D.J., Freer-Smith, P.H., Morison, J.I.L., Hanley, N., West, C.C. and Snowdon, P. (eds.) Combating climate change – a role for UK forests. An assessment of the potential of the UK’s trees and woodlands to mitigate and adapt to climate change. The Stationery Office: Edinburgh, 139-161.

Mackie, E.D. and Matthews, R.W. (2008). Timber Measurement. Forestry Commission Field Guide. Forestry Commission: Edinburgh.

Matthews, R.W., Robertson, K.A., Marland, G. and Marland, E. (2007). Carbon in wood products and product substitution. In Freer-Smith, P.H.,  Broadmeadow, M.S.J. and Lynch, J.M. (eds.) Forestry and Climate Change. CAB International:  Wallingford, 91-104.

Halsall, L., Gilbert, J. Matthews, R. and Fairgreave, M. (2006). United Kingdom: New Forecast of Softwood Availability. Forestry and British Timber, 35(11), 14-23.

Matthews, R.W. and Mackie, E.D. (2006). Forest Mensuration: A Handbook for Practitioners. Second edition. Forestry Commission: Edinburgh.

Matthews, R.W. and Robertson, K.A. (eds.) (2006). Answers to ten frequently asked questions about bioenergy, carbon sinks and global climate change. Information leaflet prepared by IEA Bioenergy Task 38, Greenhouse Gas Balances of Biomass and Bioenergy Systems. Second edition. IEA Bioenergy Task 38: Graz.

Matthews, R. W. and Duckworth, R. R.  (2005). BSORT: a Model of Tree and Stand Biomass Development and Production in Great Britain. In: Imbabi, M.S. and Mitchell, C.P. (eds.) Proceedings of World Renewable Energy Congress (WREC 2005), 22-27 May 2005, Aberdeen, UK. Elsevier: Oxford, 404-409.

Matthews, R., and Mackie, E.D. (2004). Mensuration: Growth and Yield. In Burley, J., Evans, J. and Youngquist, J.A. (eds.). Encyclopaedia of Forest Sciences. Elsevier: Oxford, 2, 573-580.

Lee, S.J. and Matthews, R.W. (2004). An indication of the likely volume gains from improved Sitka spruce planting stock. Forestry Commission Information Note 55. Forestry Commission: Edinburgh.

Broadmeadow, M.J. and Matthews, R.W. (2003). Forests, carbon and climate change: the UK contribution. Forestry Commission Information Note 48. Forestry Commission: Edinburgh.

Korhonen, R., Savolainen, I., Pingoud, K. and Matthews, R.W. (2002). The role of carbon sequestration and the tonne-year approach in fulfilling the objective of climate convention. Environmental Science and Policy, 5, 429-441.

Matthews, R.W. (2001). Modelling of energy and carbon budgets of wood fuel coppice systems. Biomass and Bioenergy, 21, 1-19.

Matthews, R.W. and Robertson, K.A. (eds.) (2001). Answers to ten frequently asked questions about bioenergy, carbon sinks and global climate change. Information leaflet prepared by IEA Bioenergy Task 38, Greenhouse Gas Balances of Biomass and Bioenergy Systems. Graz: IEA Bioenergy Task 38.

Marland, G., Schlamadinger, B. and Matthews, R.W. (2000). Kyoto forests and a broader perspective on management. Science, 290, 1895-1986.