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Forest resource assessment and modelling

In common with all other elements of the Science and Innovation Strategy for Forestry in Great Britain, Programme 6 was developed in direct response to feedback from stakeholders across the forestry sector.


The Programme addresses the five key 'research challenges' that emerged during the consultation process:

  • To develop and implement an appropriate Quality Assurance framework for modelling within FR.
  • To develop and implement more reliable and flexible models for the sector.
  • To ensure integration and coherent delivery of model systems.
  • To develop and deploy improved models for forest and stand assessment and management.
  • To undertake and utilise physical and remote data acquisitions for monitoring and modelling.

Innovation potential

By their nature, forest models often result from incremental development. The planning work specified in Programme 6 for the first 12 to 18 months of the Science and Innovation Strategy has been designed as a springboard for the development of an on-going, resilient and cross-cutting programme of research that will provide models and tools of direct relevance to the sector in the 21st Century.

It is envisaged that this programme will innovate through various major releases of high impact information into the public domain, directly addressing the Government’s Open Data (National Information Infrastructure) agenda. Publication of key data sets, in particular of permanent sample plot data and metadata, and dissemination of equations and models will open up many new opportunities within and outwith Forest Research. Publication will inevitably attract review, testing, debate and innovation all of which should lead to better and more informed application of this unique knowledge base.

Work packages

WP1 - Research data acquisition to underpin modelling and verification of resilient forest management
Appropriate and high quality data are essential for the construction of robust and resilient models. Forest Research has an existing network of permanent mensuration sample plots which, together with data gathered from ongoing silvicultural experiments and through remote sensing techniques, allow the construction and development of a wide range of models used operationally by the forestry sector, to underpin other research programmes, and to inform forest policy within Great Britain. This work package is designed to ensure the provision and maintenance of fundamental data sets on forests that form the essential evidence base for the effective management of forest capital and the development, calibration and verification of key underlying forest models and tools.

WP2 - Models of forest structure and dynamics in pursuit of resilient forest management
Improved forest models will be developed so that they can be quickly calibrated and re-calibrated as new data become available. The models will also be designed so that they can be readily adapted to represent new situations e.g. novel forest management options, genetically improved stock, pest and disease impacts, and climate change impacts. An immediate priority is to clarify the nature and scale of any limitations and biases in existing growth and yield models as an interim measure, while more reliable and flexible forest models are being developed.

WP3 - Tools for scenario analysis to support development of a resilient forest sector
The purpose of this work package is to support the reliable application and further development of reliable forest sector scenario analysis systems. Prominent examples are the FC Forecast System and the CARBINE forest sector forest carbon accounting model.

WP4 - Tools for forest growing stock assessment and resilient forestry practice
There are many different approaches that can be applied in the assessment and management of the structure and growing stock of forest stands. In practical forest management, the choice of approach influenced by the scale and complexity of the forest areas to be assessed, the perceived value of the forest areas and by the local conditions and facilities available. Traditionally, such assessments have met commercial imperatives, principally the sale of timber and the control of thinning. However, there is an expanding requirement to provide measurement methods to address modern forest objectives, including the need to demonstrate compliance with the many criteria involved in meeting forest environmental standards. Measurement is expensive and, as pressures on forest owners and managers increase, the need for more efficient measurement methods becomes more important. This work package therefore aims to inform the practical operational tools, mechanisms and techniques essential for the 21st Century forest manager. These range from traditional printed publications to software tools and robust data recording systems.  Existing publications of the type envisaged under Programme 6 include 'Forest Mensuration; A handbook for practitioners', 'Forest Yield: A handbook on forest growth and yield tables for British forestry', the Forest Yield software package, and the Woodland Carbon Code Carbon Assessment Protocol.

WP5 - Modelling to underpin forest carbon balance reporting, management and policy
The purpose of this work package is to address what has been recognised by the Programme Steering Group as the principal strategic priority goal for Programme 6 in 2015-16, which is to ensure that the forestry component of the GHG inventory is Quality Assured and transparent.

WP6 - Essential QA/QC and enhanced dissemination of forest models, tools and information
The outputs from models are only useful if the underlying assumptions and limitations are clearly understood. For example it is essential to understand for what model inputs (e.g. tree species, age, site factors and silvicultural management regimes) a model will produce reliable outputs. The Forestry Commission Science and Innovation Strategy recognises that Quality Assurance and Quality Control need to be integrally embedded processes in the design, development and deployment of models, systems and tools that support forest policy and practice.

WP7 - Programme Governance and Management
This work package has been included to ensure continued and ongoing liaison with stakeholders in the development of Programme 6 in 2016/17 to 2019/20.  Doing this should ensure that all outputs remain relevant to the three countries making up Great Britain, not least in meeting current National and International obligations, and that this programme therefore delivers value for money to the taxpayer.

Last updated: 2nd August 2016