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NEWS RELEASE No: 1339515 MARCH 2010

Edinburgh conference to explore ‘people’ benefits of trees and forests

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Family enjoying an informal picnic in an early spring oakwood

Trees, woods and forests are becoming increasingly important in British people’s lives.

And the “people” benefits of trees and wider issues of forest management decision making will be in the spotlight at a major conference in Edinburgh next month, entitled Trees and Forests in British Society (April 2010).

Hosted by Forest Research, the scientific research arm of the Forestry Commission, the event will bring together social and natural scientists, policy makers and practitioners. They will discuss the social and economic trends shaping the management of British trees and forests, explore responses to these trends and how society can successfully benefit from its woodland resource, and identify future research and policy directions needed to meet emerging challenges.

It will be held at Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University from Tuesday 13 to Thursday 15 April, and is aimed at professionals with a strong policy, social and economic research, environmental or community development interest or involvement in social and economic aspects of British forestry.

Dr Liz O’Brien, deputy head of social and economic research at Forest Research, explained,

“The conference will consolidate and expand knowledge about the social benefits of forestry and the best ways to measure or evaluate these benefits. It will link this evidence from research with experiences of those involved in policy and practical forestry. The conference is a unique opportunity to hear and discuss these issues in the context of British forestry with experts in the subject.

“We need to pause and take stock of how far we’ve come, what we’ve learned, how we can apply that learning and where we go next. That’s why this conference is important. It’s a chance for researchers, practitioners and policymakers to share information and experience about what works and what doesn’t, to discuss and explore new opportunities for the future, and to feed that into forestry planning and policymaking at national and local levels.”

The last decade has seen an increasing amount of work by Forest Research and other organisations into the interactions of people with trees and woodland, leading to a significant increase in the evidence and understanding. The conference will draw on this body of evidence, and speakers will include:

  • Professor Richard Mitchell from Glasgow University, on the relationships between public health and well-being and woodlands;
  • Dr Anna Lawrence from Forest Research, on evidence-based forestry policy;
  • Professor Bill Slee from the Macaulay Institute, who will speak about governance, multi-functional forestry and economics; and
  • Keith Kirby, of Natural England, on ‘More trees without the trouble?’

Case studies will profile innovative examples of forestry providing social benefits, including ‘Forest Kindergarten’, which uses forestry to promote learning and well-being in young children, and Branching Out, a ‘greenspace-on-referral’ mental health project. Both programmes were developed by Forestry Commission Scotland and partners.

On the final day participants will visit two urban woodland sites in Glasgow that form part of Forestry Commission Scotland’s Woodlands In & Around Towns initiative (WIAT). Glasgow Clyde Valley Green Network Partnership staff who manage an ambitious programme to link greenspaces to bring social, economic and environmental benefits to local people will explain links between research, planning and policy. There will also be poster presentations, networking sessions and a conference dinner.

The deadline for conference registrations is Tuesday 30 March. Further information, including the programme, registration forms and accommodation booking, is available from

Further information about social and economic research at Forest Research is available from and


  1. Trees, woods and forests are playing an increasingly important role in millions of people’s lives, and the social aspects of forestry are becoming increasingly important in the planning and management of woodland, forests and greenspace. Recent years, have seen a new role for trees, woodland and greenspace such as in towns and cities to help regenerate damaged and derelict land left by industry, and to improve the living and working environments of urban people. Trees and woodland are also playing important roles in areas such as physical and mental health care, education and social inclusion. Communities are demanding and getting greater roles in the management of local woodlands, with some taking over their management from public authorities. Now climate change is adding impetus to the drive to use trees to provide solutions to future challenges, such as floods and high temperatures. These are welcome trends, but the issues involved in providing these benefits can be very complex.
  2. Forest Research is part of the Forestry Commission, which is the government department for forestry in Great Britain. It conducts world-class scientific research and technical development relevant to forestry for a range of internal and external clients. For further information visit


  • Charlton Clark, 0131 314 6500; or
  • Dr Suzanne Martin, 01420 526188