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Assessing resilience

Resilience is defined here as 'the capacity of our woodlands to withstand and/or adapt to changing environmental, economic and social conditions. This capacity will rely on having adequate levels of natural capital to ensure the provision of ecosystems services to meet society’s demands'.


This Programme will:

  • Assess and evaluate woodland and forest resilience in the context of sustainable forestry, ecosystem service provision and the wider mosaic of land-use.
  • Examine what contributes to resilience; how forest ecosystems function, and what the risks are to them.
  • Explore appropriate indicators of resilience, their use in detecting ecosystem instability, and what are the vulnerabilities of the forestry socio-ecological system.
  • Develop an understanding of the spatial and temporal context of forests for ecosystem service provision.
  • Provide tools to assess and improve resilience across the range of functions of forests and woodlands in relation to climate change and policy and operational decisions.
  • Assess resilience at scales from woodland and forest stand scale, through to landscape and catchment scale, and in terms of woodland management priorities and ecosystem service provision.
  • Explore how resilience may be enhanced in native woodlands and urban forests.

Innovation potential

The programme will provide innovative and fundamental research into factors influencing resilience including carbon and GHG balance, soil sustainability, hydrology, forest genetics, and woodland biodiversity. It will assess the changing abiotic risks to those functions, and it will consider alternative policy and land use management scenarios, taking into account the impacts of wind, fire, flood and drought to the system and the wider landscape context. Resilience across the main functions of forests will be assessed at scales from woodland and forest stand scale, through to landscape and catchment scale, and in terms of woodland management priorities and ecosystem service provision. Enhancing resilience in native woodlands and urban forests will be included. Opportunities for land use integration will be considered. 

Innovative tools and guidance will be developed and made available to support policy development through to planning and operational decisions. They will be applicable to examining resilience of forestry and sustained ecosystem service provision in relation to management and changing climate and wider landscape context and land-use policy.

Work packages

WP1 - Defining resilience
Interdisciplinary research to refine our understanding of resilience within forest and wooded landscapes in a way that has practical implications for the British forestry sector.

WP2 - What contributes to resilience? Understanding & measuring biodiversity and its influence on woodland ecosystem resilience
Exploring how to maintain ecosystem services and biodiversity while achieving woodland ecosystem resilience. Forest Research is conducting fundamental research within different woodland types to understand the influence of biodiversity and underlying processes on ecosystem service provision and woodland ecosystem resilience.

WP3 - Risk and resilience
Developing understanding of forest vulnerability and risk in relation to resilience. Forest Research is evaluating risks to forest resilience in a changing climate and developing appropriate indicators. This involves understanding broad-scale vulnerability and the range of risks that have an impact on resilience, with drought, wind, wild fire, flood, and landslide risks examined in more detail.

WP4 - Resilience at multiple scales
Understanding resilience in the context of sustainable forestry and forest ecosystem service provision, at scales from the wider landscape to the cityscape. Forest Research will develop understanding of ecosystem service provision and resilience to climate change, in order to assess and quantify forest ecosystem service delivery and resilience at multiple scales, and to deliver advice on the impacts of urban forest composition, the restoration of afforested peatlands and the management of other open habitats.

WP5 - Quantifying changes to resilience
Contributing to the quantification of resilience and understanding the influences on it. Forest Research will assess the functioning of example forest stands and catchments in order to examine change over time, to inform the quantification of ecosystem services, particularly climate control through greenhouse-gas balance, soil carbon and nutrient protection, and water quality and acidification. The benefits of woodland creation and management will be quantified.


Last updated: 2nd August 2016