About our research into woodlands and the environment


Passive ozone samplers located above the canopy on a meteorological mast
Earthworks under high forest management
Riparian woodland can be particularly effective at stablising river banks and retaining sediment in run-off from adjacent fields

The environment is one of the cornerstones of sustainable development, and a proper understanding of how woodlands and forests interact with it is vital. Our research on physical environmental issues aims to ensure that forestry policies and practice can support this objective for land management.

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


Protection of the environment, and environmental threats to forests have become increasingly important issues in the last two decades. Since the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and the subsequent Helsinki Conference in 1993, the requirement for countries to practice 'Sustainable Forestry' has been made clear. Research is needed in the ways that forests interact with the physical environment so that policy, guidance and practice in sustainable forestry in the UK can be based on solid scientific principles.

Research objectives

Research on the physical environment is currently split into several interlinked programmes. These include:

  • Effects of forests and forestry on water quality and quantity
  • Effects of atmospheric pollutions on forest ecosystem dynamics
  • Effects of climate change on forest ecosystem dynamics, and development of adaptation strategies
  • The sustainability of forest soils
  • Intensive forest monitoring
  • Forest carbon dynamics.

Research programmes

Forestry Commission policy

Forestry Commission logo
As the responsible government Department for forestry, the Forestry Commission requires an effective understanding of how forests and forestry operations may affect the wider environment, so that it can ensure that forestry plays a proper part in sustainable development. Effects of the physical environment on the health and management of trees, woodlands and forests is important for policies which are concerned with the protection of UK forests.


Environmental research within Forest Research has led to significant changes in the way we perceive and manage woodlands and forests in Britain. Guidance on good practice in the forest has been a centrepiece of outputs from environmental research, including large inputs into the Forestry Commission:

Research on the effects of climate change is increasingly important, and is providing strong guidance on the likely impacts to woodland and forests, important for forward planning in the forestry industry and in land-use decision making.

Long term forest monitoring is vital to support environmental research activities. Forest Research holds the responsibility as the National Focal Centre for the UN-ECE/EU Forest Ecosystem Intensive Monitoring Programme. It also organises monitoring activities in the only site in the UK Environmental Change Network (ECN) managed as productive forest (broad-leaved and coniferous), located at Alice Holt Forest in Hampshire.