• About our research into evaluating woodland resources and potentials

About our research into evaluating woodland resources and potentials

Summary

Photo
A timber quality model will help understand the effect of forest management decisions on the properties of sawmill products
Diagram
Wood cells
After Jozsa and Middleton (1994)

Understanding the potential of woodland resources relies firstly on maintaining an accurate picture of the extent, location and composition of our woodlands. Data on public and private sector resources is collected from a variety of sources, including the National Inventory of Woodland and Trees (NIWT) and sample plots that characterise and quantify the UK growth of managed forest stands.

Mensurational techniques are applied to this data to develop and evaluate measurement systems to assess tree growth and forest yield.

To simulate the potential impacts of afforestation and management practice, process models of forest structure, growth and yield have been developed and validated. Integrating these with models which describe water and carbon cycles in forest stands results in a better picture of optimum land uses.

Forest Research’s ability to quantify Britain’s woodland resources enables the wood processing industries to then assess the potential for UK raw material. This is of particular interest where management techniques change or new markets develop. For example, recent analysis shows that UK biomass can make a very real contribution to the reduction of fossil fuel use, to help mitigate the effects of climate change and meet UK renewable energy targets.

Utilisation of UK timber also depends on timber quality. Collaborative projects such as Compression Wood enable timber producers to understand how to improve their raw material for the construction industry and help ensure wood can compete with other materials.

Research programmes, related topics, products and services, forthcoming events and contact information

Background

Integrated land management means altering land use to meet multiple goals.  Optimising land use relies clearly understanding the demands and productivity of a particular land use.  Models which demonstrate the behaviour of woodland are vital to understanding the potential of woodland in integrated land use situations.

Anticipating future data needs is vital, since needs change over time.  More data on native woodlands and timber quality is currently required to inform policy development in these areas.

The accurate assessment of current and future yields are of particular importance where land management practices change, (e.g. continuous cover forestry) or new markets are developed (e.g. woodfuel).  It enables the wood processing industries to assess the potential for UK raw material.

Timber quality is also vital to increase utilisation of UK timber, for example in construction.

Research objectives

A top level objective for Forest Research, in partnership with the forest industries, is to increase the competitiveness of British-grown forest products:

  • Forest Research collects data on both private and public sector woodlands in a ten year cycle, the National Inventory of Woodland and Trees (NIWT). NIWT 2001 was acclaimed as ‘the most accurate picture of England’s forests and woodlands since the Domesday Book (1086)’. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) enable the data to be easily manipulated and compared with other data sets.
  • We are testing novel methods of inventory capture, such as remote sensing and mobile telemetry equipment, to improve the efficiency of data collection.
  • Current and future yields are assessed by mensuration.
  • To simulate the potential impacts of afforestation and management practice, process models of forest structure, growth and yield are being developed and validated. Integrating these with models which describe water and carbon cycles in forest stands results in a better picture of optimum land uses.
  • Collaboration with other research teams is leading to us integrating of our base models with models which describe the water and carbon cycles in forest stands results. Such models are vital to understanding optimum land uses.

In the renewable energy sector, biomass can make a very real contribution to the reduction of fossil fuel use, helping to mitigate the effects of climate change. Forest Research is playing its part to support this developing industry, for example:

  • Exploratory work on the use of biomass in hydrogen fuel cells
  • Haulage and drying trials
  • Knowledge transfer, including the publication of woodfuel factsheets
  • Review of woodfuel resources for DTI strategy.

Collaboration with Building Research Enterprise (BRE), Napier University and Trada, along with EU projects such as Compression Wood enable timber producers to understand how to improve their raw material and help ensure wood can compete with other materials.

Research programmes

Forestry Commission policy

Forestry Commission logo
Information on the size, distribution, composition and condition of woodlands is essential for developing and monitoring policies for the sustainable development of woodlands and the countryside. The Forestry Commission has been carrying out national woodland surveys since 1924.