Trees and forests in British society

Family walking in Hamsterley forest, Kielder Forest District.

April 13 to April 15 2010, Heriott Watt University, Edinburgh, UK

What was the event?

A conference that explored the demands that society places on forestry and the role trees, woods and forests are expected to play.


Much forest policy in Britain, as well as the work of the Forestry Commission and other organisations is committed to ensuring the widest possible social benefits are gained from the management of trees, woods and forests on public as well as private land.  This is a particularly challenging task since the relationship society has with trees, woods and forests changes over time.  The demands that society places on forestry and the role it is expected to play today is very different from that required by previous generations.

Further background information


The last decade has seen a significant increase in the available evidence as well as the understanding of the social and often less tangible impacts and interactions of British people and their trees and forests.  This conference drew on that body of research produced by the Social and Economic Research Group (SERG) at Forest Research as well as other public, academic and private research colleagues, to explore and consolidate the state of current knowledge.

The objectives of the conference were to:

  • Discuss societal and economic trends shaping the management of British trees and forests in both urban and rural contexts
  • Share experiences of responses to these trends and how society can successfully engage with its woodland resource
  • Identify future research and policy directions needed to meet emerging challenges.

Conference programme and presentations

Keynote speakers, research papers, and presentations looking at practice and delivery covered the following topic areas:

  • Health and well-being outcomes: connections to woods, forests, and greenspace
  • Education, learning and play in woodlands: new evidence and implications
  • Cultural services and cultural values: frameworks, utility and importance
  • Measuring social returns, impacts and valuation of forest services and projects
  • Emerging trends in community woodlands and public engagement
  • Progress in multipurpose forestry
  • Changing world, changing resource: governance roles of agencies, organisations, researchers and citizens
  • Social evidence and forest science at the policy interface.

Conference programme

Presentations and abstracts

Publication coverWoods and forests in British society: progress in research and practice (PDF-2066K)
Papers presented at this conference.
Forest Research Monograph: 3
ISBN 978-0-85538-828-7

Who was the event suitable for?

This conference was aimed at those involved in policy development, a broad range of social researchers including geographers, sociologists and human ecologists, environment and development professionals and others with a strong involvement or interest in social and economic aspects of British forestry in rural and urban contexts. 

We expected people from a range of different professional backgrounds, including those responsible for forestry and countryside management, those involved in recreation and tourism, green space planners, economists, action researchers, policy researchers, and social and community development professionals. 

The intention of this event was to focus presentations and discussion primarily on the situation in Great Britain, but also including Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.  Participants from countries further afield were welcome to take part.

Where did the event take place?

Edinburgh Conference Centre
Heriot-Watt University
EH14 4AS


For further information contact:

Evelyn Hall
Tel: 0131 445 6916