Future monitoring of forest plots for climate change

Using the UK’s existing network of forest plots to reflect a greater emphasis on climate change

News from Forest Research: November 2009

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Webcam images show leaf coverage at certain times of year

The intensive monitoring of forest plots (formerly the ICP Forests Level II network) is now six months into its two-year funding under the new EU Life+ FutMon project. The research uses the UK’s existing network of forest plots, which was set up in 1996 to monitor the effects of pollution on forests, and has redeveloped it to reflect a greater emphasis on climate change.

Some new plots have been added to the network, particularly in the south where climate change is expected to show greater effects. A range of tree species are included in the research, including oak, beech, Scots pine and Sitka spruce, with a wide variety of soil types.

Three new scientific actions have been incorporated at certain sites to investigate and establish more accurate estimates of water budgets, nutrient flows and tree vitality. This work uses detailed phenology from web cams, leaf area estimates from mobile sensors, and automatic temperature and moisture probes. However, the skills of our tree health assessors and ecologists in the field remain vital and training courses have been organised in Europe to ensure the comparability of assessments across all 24 EU participating countries.

In the UK, routine site monitoring will be undertaken by staff from Forest Research and the Forestry Commission, and all chemical analysis of plant material, waters and soils will be performed by our Centre for Forestry and Climate Change laboratory.

For more information, contact Sue Benham see the FutMon project page.

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This and other news stories can be found in the November 2009 issue of FR News, our online newsletter.