Integrated forest monitoring

Meteorology equipment at top of mast in Alice Holt Level II plots, meteorology station at Alice Holt, litterfall and throughfall collectors in a forest monitoring plot and measuring Podzol soil depth


Monitoring forest state and changes to its state are an important form of scientific exploration as well as precursor to formal reporting. Forest Research (FR) has considerable experience in this field, having taken periodic measurements in forest plots since the turn of the 20th century.


Research objectives

This programme facilitates the periodic measurement of a suite of environmental, biological and silvicultural variables so that scientifically sound statements can be made on the state of selected GB forest types.

It is based on the several existing monitoring platforms listed below but will, for the first time bring these formally together to allow up- and down-scaling between them, and promote efficient data capture and exploitation:

  • Forest condition plots
  • Permanent sample plots (PSPs)
  • Long-term experiments
  • Intensive forest monitoring plots
  • Biosoil plots
  • Forestry Commission sponsored Environmental Change Network Site.

The Integrated Forest Monitoring Network provides coverage of environmental gradients that allow for forest ecosystem responses to climate change and pests and diseases to be evaluated.  Integration of monitoring platforms will also promote cross disciplinary scientific research and facilitate modelling, essential for predictive purposes in a changing environment.

Monitoring activities

Diagram showing relationship between forest monitoring activities, projects and services Remote sensing Long-term experiments Research forests Alice Holt flux site Other Forest Research monitoring platforms Intensive forest monitoring National forest inventory

The Integrated Forest Monitoring programme is responsible for co-ordinating our monitoring activities and maximising the use of the data collected. Several monitoring platforms are part of wider monitoring networks, including:

Research forests

The programme is also responsible for the establishment and management of Research Forests in Britain.  These are locations where a ‘backbone’ of monitoring activities can be used to support scientific studies in a known environmental context:


Publications and presentations related to intensive forest monitoring since 2000.

Funders and partners

Forestry Commission logo
Monitoring and associated research activities are primarily funded by the Forestry Commission Integrated forest monitoring programme.  Much of the work is undertaken in partnerships with other research institutes and universities, at both national and European levels.

Forestry Commission policy

Maximising the utility of data gathered in various monitoring and survey programmes is important.  This research programme directly supports the Forestry Commission’s policy of seeking to optimise the use of monitoring information for the forestry sector and wider environmental and land-use stakeholders.


The programme commenced in 2009, and is reviewed every six months. Ongoing work includes:

  • Collating relevant monitoring data across FR in a metadatabase
  • Integrating monitoring activities with the Forestry Commission National Forest Inventory
  • Executing the requirements of the intensive monitoring project
  • Developing a user-friendly interface for forest science researchers.


Helen McKay