Management of long-term experiments

The Teindland experimental reserve in the 1980s


The aim of the Long-term Experiments (LTE) project is to conserve the best silviculture and genetics field experiments as a strategic resource that can be re-examined to address future important questions about sustainable forest management.

Research objectives

A rolling programme of work is carried out to ensure the integrity and structure of the experiments is maintained for the foreseeable future, including:

  • Field inspection of experiments that have not been visited in recent years
  • Consideration of more recently established experiments for classification as long-term
  • Screening of officially closed experiments that still exist and are of potential value
  • Accurate mapping on GIS systems


From its establishment in the early 20th century, the Forestry Commission has carried out extensive programmes of research to identify and overcome factors limiting afforestation in various parts of Great Britain, improve management practices, and develop improved genetic material. Many experiments that were established to last the full rotation of the crop still exist, while many others with a shorter planned lifespan also survive and are sufficiently robust in terms of layout and design for longer term studies.

Recently it has become clear that long-term experiments are a valuable resource for addressing unanticipated questions that may be totally unrelated to the original reason for planting.  For example, trials comparing genetic variation within and between species are particularly important for planning silviculture under future climate scenarios.

Current long-term experimental holding

Map showing long-term experiments located in Scotland (47%), England (40%) and Wales (13%); within England, long-term experiments are concentrated in the north and west

During 2014-15 a comprehensive review of all open Forest Research silviculture and genetics experiments was carried out by a multi-disciplinary working group.  The long-term experiment holding has been reduced and refined to ensure a broad geographical coverage of topics and species is retained, giving flexibility to address future research priorities. 

The project currently consists of around 400 experiments covering topics including mixtures, nutrition, ground preparation, stability and exposure, timber quality, spacing, thinning, native woodlands and natural regeneration. 

In addition, there are a large number of species and provenance trials on a wide range of coniferous and broadleaved species. 

Experiments that are part of a series on contrasting site types have been retained where possible to protect the integrity of the series and give maximum value.

Noltfox database

NoltfoxSince 2006 we have been a member of the Northern European Database of Long-Term Forest Experiments (Noltfox) consortium, established by a number of northern European countries to harmonise information on long-term forest experiments. 

Information about our experiments can now be found on the Noltfox database


Dr. Victoria Stokes