NEWS RELEASE No: 123652 APRIL 2009

New structure sharpens focus on climate change at Forest Research

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Forest Research scientist in the forest taking soil measurements from root plate of windblown Sitka spruce tree

The Forestry Commission's Forest Research agency has been re-organised from today (2 April 2009) to give it a clearer focus on its priority work on forestry and climate change.

It has changed its core structure into three research "centres", which will work to deliver the rapidly changing and challenging research requirements of Forest Research's public and private-sector clients. The new centres are:

  • the Centre for Forestry and Climate Change, which will research the effects of environmental and climate change on forestry, and how the forestry sector can play its part in adaptation to and mitigation of climate change. It will also develop entomological, pathological and environmental sciences in order to deliver a holistic understanding of climate change and forestry that can inform action and policy development. Professor Andy Moffat is the Head  of this Centre;
  • the Centre for Forest Resources and Management, which will research, develop and provide guidance on methods of quantifying, improving and managing Britain’s forest resources in a cost-effective, safe, sustainable and socially beneficial way. It will also provide technical support for field experimentation, monitoring and surveys through Forest Research's Technical Services Unit. Dr Helen McKay leads this Centre; and
  • the Centre for Human and Ecological Sciences, which will research and develop the role of trees, woodland and forests in society and within integrated sustainable landscapes by applying a broad range of skills from the human and ecological sciences. It will also provide statistical support for research across the Agency.  Dr Chris Quine leads this Centre.
    Professor Peter Freer-Smith is Director of Research, and the three research centres are supported by an Operations Unit comprising human resources, finance, IT support, communications and business development, headed by Dr Hugh Williams.

Welcoming the re-organisation, Tim Rollinson, Director-General of the Forestry Commission, said

"Through this restructuring we believe we've enabled Forest Research to be more responsive to the modern requirements of government, the forestry community and wider society. We've also aimed to put it on a more outward-looking, business-like footing.

"It now has a clearer focus on our priority, which is climate change, while continuing to be well equipped to deliver on the other areas of work that need to be done."

Dr James Pendlebury, Chief Executive of Forest Research, agreed, adding,

“Forest Research's vision is to be a robust, market-relevant and flexible organisation with a reputation for innovative, applied science.

"Our new research centres will help us achieve this vision, and in particular will give a sharp focus to our current policy priority, which is to research the interactions between forests and climate change.

"These are exciting and forward-looking times at Forest Research."

  • Brief biographies of Forest Research's Chief Executive and Heads of Centres are given below. Full biographies, and further information about Forest Research, are available from (follow the "People" link for biographies). For further information about the Forestry Commission's work on climate change on forestry, visit

Notes to Editors:

  1. Forest Research is an agency of the Forestry Commission that undertakes scientific research, technical development and knowledge transfer for internal and external clients to support and enhance the role of trees and woodland in sustainable development. It has 20 research programme groups encompassing more than 50 specific research projects, and employs 260 staff at a number of locations throughout Great Britain. These include major research stations at Alice Holt Lodge in Hampshire, England, and Northern Research Station, near Edinburgh, Scotland; and a number of field stations across England, Scotland and Wales.
  2. Dr James Pendlebury, Chief Executive of Forest Research, has had a distinguished career in research, management and market development in the UK, the USA, South Africa, New Zealand and The Netherlands. He holds a BSc Honours degree in forestry and a PhD on the preservation characteristics of tropical hardwood species from Malaysia, both from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. He was most recently Head of the Forestry Commission's team of specialist advisors.
  3. Professor Peter Freer-Smith, Director of Research, has a first degree in Biological Sciences from Stirling University, Scotland, and a PhD on the impacts of air pollutants on trees from the University of Lancaster, England. He also holds a DSc from Lancaster. He was a lecturer at the University of Ulster, Northern Ireland, before joining the Forestry Commission in 1987. He is an Honorary Visiting Professor in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Southampton, England.
  4. Professor Andy Moffat, Head of the Centre for Forestry & Climate Change, has a degree in geography and soil science from the University of Reading, England, and was awarded a PhD for his work on a Natural Environment Research Council CASE studentship at University College London and Rothamsted Experimental Station. He was awarded a DSc in 2005 by the University of Reading, and has been a Visiting Professor in the School of Human & Environmental Sciences at the University of Reading since 2007.
  5. Dr Helen McKay, Head of the Centre for Forest Resources & Management, has a first degree in ecological sciences and a PhD in tree seedling ecology both from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. She was a Research Fellow at Trinity College, Dublin and the University of Edinburgh before joining Forest Research in 1988. Since then she has worked on the physiological quality of planting stock, seedling morphology and nutrition, and nutritional sustainability. She has also been a Forestry Commission specialist advisor on forest operations, the physical environment, process-based modelling and remote sensing, with a particular responsibility for research supporting the development of the British woodfuel industry. She was most recently acting Head of the Biometrics, Surveys & Statistics Division of Forest Research.
  6. Dr Chris Quine, Head of the Centre for Human & Ecological Sciences, holds a first degree in geography from the University of Cambridge, a Masters in forestry from the University of Oxford, and a PhD in forest ecology from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. His career has encompassed forest management for the Forestry Commission and research into silviculture and forest ecology with Forest Research. He was most recently head of Forest Research's Ecology Division.
  7. Dr Hugh Williams, Head of Operations, holds a BA in geography from the University of Exeter, England, an MSc in environmental forestry from Bangor University, Wales, a Diploma in Management from the University of Derby, England, and a PhD from the University of Reading, England. He has worked on research projects involving the use of high-resolution remote-sensing data, including a World Bank investigation of biomass resources in Chad. He has previously worked at the National Forest Company on the development of The National Forest in the English Midlands, in private forestry consultancies and for local authorities. He was most recently Forest Research's Liaison Officer for England and acting Head of Communications.
  8. The Forestry Commission is the government department for forestry in Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales). It advises Ministers in the UK, Scottish and Welsh Assembly Governments on forestry policy; manages approximately 1 million hectares of public forest land for multiple social, economic and environmental benefits; supports other woodland owners with grants, felling licences, regulation and advice, and, through its Forest Research agency, carries out scientific research and technical development as above. Further information is available from

Media contact: Charlton Clark, telephone 00 44 131 314 6500.