Key Actions 2016-2017

Our work is founded on the principle that research and evidence are central to both informed forest policy making and sustainable land management practices. We work in an interdisciplinary way – combining our expertise, information and experiences from different areas of science - to ensure that we provide the best available evidence and information for all our customers.

During the 2016-17 financial year we have achived or exceeded 21 key actions:

  1. Extend knowledge of the composition and condition of urban forests across the UK by carrying out at least two collaborative i-Tree Eco surveys
  2. Analyse the diversity of Phytophthora species present at forest, woodland and public garden sites in Scotland and northern England
  3. Contribute to Phase 2 and Phase 3 projects in the Living With Environmental Change (LWEC) Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Initiative (THAPBI)
  4. Prepare a National Forest Inventory report on the extent and condition of woodland habitats
  5. Report the results of collaborative work on genetic variation in Scottish provenances of Scots pine
  6. Highlight Forest Research’s expertise in hydrology through reports and knowledge exchange activities
  7. Contribute to a special edition of the Ecosystem Services journal as part of the UK National Ecosystem Assessment dissemination
  8. Survey 1,500 hectares of forested land as required by the National Forest Inventory
  9. Provide guidance on how to control the invasive shrub Gaultheria shallon
  10. Analyse the impact of policy, financial and operational interventions on wood mobilisation in Europe and produce summary reports
  11. Lead the forestry input to the preparation of the Living With Environmental Change (LWEC) report card on the impact of climate change on UK agriculture and forestry
  12. Contribute to the updated UK Forestry Standard to be published in 2016–17
  13. Make available datasets for the National Forest Inventory, Public Forest Estate and Research Experiment as our contribution to the Open Data and INSPIRE programmes
  14. Increase Forest Research’s online portfolio of information, publications and data
  15. Publish UK National Statistics and Official Statistics releases on subjects including forestry statistics, timber price indices, UK wood production and analyses from the National Forest Inventory
  16. Contribute to the delivery of partners’ events
  17. Work with research partners to disseminate the results of national soil re-surveys
  18. Continue to secure external (non-CFS) income, with a target of £7.323 million
  19. Provide our staff with training and mentoring opportunities
  20. Integrate colleagues joining Forest Research in April 2016 and raise awareness and understanding of each other’s skills and capabilities
  21. Contribute to governance projects and spending reviews

Extend knowledge of the composition and condition of urban forests across the UK by carrying out at least two collaborative i-Tree Eco surveys

housesExceeded: Forest Research’s Urban Forest Research Group has provided detailed support to the i-Tree Eco projects in Petersfield (Hampshire), Southampton (Hampshire), Oldham (Lancashire) and Burton upon Trent (Staffordshire).

The Petersfield project is being delivered entirely by volunteers. FR provided background information and advice to the project steering group and met the project manager on six formal occasions to inform project development, planning and delivery. FR designed and provided the field survey forms, conducted some fieldwork and advised on the computer modelling steps. An article by Moffat, A.J., Doick, K.J., Handley, P.H. (2017) “An i-Tree Eco survey for Petersfield – a story of community engagement”, The ARB Magazine. Vol 176 (March 2017), p47-48, gives key results and lessons learnt from using a volunteering approach to delivering i-Tree Eco in the UK.

The Southampton project is a partnership project with the City Council and the University of Southampton. The fieldwork was undertaken by intern undergraduates, trained by FR. The Urban Forest Research Group also attended steering group meetings to guide project design and planning and is now helping to inform the reporting phase.

Analyse the diversity of Phytophthora species present at forest, woodland and public garden sites in Scotland and northern England

Achieved: During the year, 15 different sites were sampled and soil was collected from 10 trees per site. The sites were mostly public gardens, arboreta and cemeteries with previous histories of Phytophthora outbreaks. Soil samples were processed for DNA extraction and Illumina® sequencing, and sent for sequencing to a partner organisation as part of a sequencing collaboration (e.g. co-authorship on any papers). The resulting sequence data was analysed via bioinformatics techniques established at Forest Research.

Several Phytophthora species found to be present in the sequencing data were isolated. The methods used were found to have worked and generally there was high Phytophthora diversity across the sites. Focus now turns to how to interpret the data and inform policy, and we would like to return to more sites to verify the method through baiting (using trap plants) for Phytophthora species found through sequencing data.

Tree Health staff attended the 8th Meeting of the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) Working Party 7.02.09 on ‘Phytophthora in forests and natural ecosystems’ (Vietnam 19–25 March 2017) and presented results of studies including an overview of the LWEC Phase 3 'Phyto-threats' project.

FR also continues to participate in the Defra review of Phytophthora as part of the advisory process on future funding of controls for Phytophthora ramorum and P. kernoviae.

Contribute to Phase 2 and Phase 3 projects in the Living With Environmental Change (LWEC) Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Initiative (THAPBI)

Mature Lawson’s cypress (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana) killed by Phytophthora lateralisAchieved: LWEC Phase 2 projects are in the middle to late stages of activity – most finishing by September 2017, so during the year there was considerable activity in terms of workshops and output production such as journal papers. Workshop participation by Forest Research staff has included the Innovation in Plant Biosecurity conference in York in March 2017 and staff will also be involved in a cross-project dissemination workshop being planned by THAPBI for February 2018. FR’s Chris Quine has been invited to join the editorial panel for a special issue of Forest Ecology and Management and this provides an opportunity to include papers from several FR projects.

Both LWEC Phase 3 projects (i.e. Phyto-threats, led by FR, and PURPOSE, led by the University of Reading but with substantial FR involvement) have started and are in active data-gathering and preliminary analysis phase. Recent meetings include the Phyto-threats meeting in York (6 October 2016) and the PURPOSE project meeting when the possible implications of environmental change and acute oak decline on oak woodland were discussed. As part of the Phyto-threats project a consumer survey to help us understand public views on nursery accreditation schemes is being undertaken in 2017.

Prepare a National Forest Inventory report on the extent and condition of woodland habitats

Achieved: Data has been collated, analysed and formulated into draft statistics and condition scores, compiled into a report and sent to consultees. Feedback is currently being analysed and incorporated as appropriate. Subject to agreement and comments from the consultees we expect publication later in 2017.

Report the results of collaborative work on genetic variation in Scottish provenances of Scots pine

SCOTS PINES. BEDGEBURY PINETUMAchieved: Several papers have been produced or are in the final stages of preparation from collaborative work involving FR’s Stuart A’Hara, Anna Brown and Joan Cottrell.

One collaboration focused on disease and has resulted in two papers being published by Perry et al. (2016): ‘Has Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) co-evolved with Dothistroma septosporum in Scotland? Evidence for spatial heterogeneity in the susceptibility of native provenances’ in Evolutionary Applications and ‘Substantial heritable variation for susceptibility to Dothistroma septosporum within populations of native British Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris)’ in Plant Pathology.

The second collaboration focused on environmental conditions and morphology and has resulted in one paper being published (Donnelly et al. 2016 ‘Genetic variation for needle traits in Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.)’ in Tree Genetics & Genomes with a further paper submitted (with a provisional title of “Reconstructing the plant mitochondrial genome for marker discovery: a case study using Pinus”.

Highlight Forest Research’s expertise in hydrology through reports and knowledge exchange activities regarding: long-term studies into the effects of conifer afforestation on water quality; managing riparian woodland for water; and modelling to predict the impacts of woodland creation and replanting on flood flows

Flooded treesAchieved: Demand for knowledge exchange around flooding and natural flood management has remained very strong throughout the year and Forest Research’s staff have made the most of these opportunities, as shown by the examples below.

Tom Nisbet attended a workshop at the Office for National Statistics in Newport (17 August 2016) to discuss monetary estimates of flood regulation services, and gave a presentation on 'Slowing the Flow at Pickering' to the Forestry Engineering Group (IAgrE) symposium on 'Engineering to Stem the Flow' at Newton Rigg College, Penrith (8 September 2016). Tom Nisbet also gave a presentation on ‘The role of forestry in water protection and flood risk management’ to the Independent Environmental Advisory Panel to Dŵr Cymru/Welsh Water, and participated in more than six other events on similar themes during January and February 2017.

Huw Thomas presented a summary on rainfall-runoff modelling and the Slowing the Flow in Pickering project at the fifth International Conference on Flood Risk Management and Response in Venice (29 June to 1 July 2016). The topic was also covered in a published paper in the International Journal of Safety and Security Engineering. Huw also attended a two-day meeting and site visits to Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, to present natural flood management work to Northern Ireland Forest Service. He has been commissioned to undertake further modelling work for the Forest Service.

Sam Broadmeadow attended a two-day workshop in Penrith to present the work done by the Forestry Commission to deliver the Cumbria Floods partnership vision to the local stakeholders and residents of the flooded communities.

Nadeem Shah presented results of hydrological studies at the Flow Country Conference (Thurso, 21–24 March 2017).

FR also led the COST Action on Payments for ecosystem services (with particular reference to water) which held its first full meeting of the PESFOR-W COST Action in Nancy (France, February 2017).

Contribute to a special edition of the Ecosystem Services journal as part of the UK National Ecosystem Assessment dissemination

Achieved: Three open access papers with authors including Forest Research staff (Liz O’Brien and David Edwards) were published in a special issue of the Ecosystems Services journal on ‘Shared, plural and cultural values’ (October 2016).

The papers are: ‘Ecosystem services and the idea of shared values’ (Irvine et al.); ‘An arts-led dialogue to elicit shared, plural and cultural values of ecosystems’ (Edwards et al.) and; ‘Shared values and deliberative valuation: future directions’ (Kenter et al.)

Survey 1,500 hectares of forested land as required by the National Forest Inventory

Exceeded: We surveyed 1,930 hectares.

Provide guidance on how to control the invasive shrub Gaultheria shallon

Achieved: An experimental report providing guidance to the national and public forest estates has been delivered to Forest Enterprise (FE) England and circulated to relevant staff within Natural Resources Wales, FE Scotland and FE England. A scientific paper has been submitted to the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) 125th Anniversary Conference (September 2017); if accepted it will be published in the journal New Forests in late 2017.

Analyse the impact of policy, financial and operational interventions on wood mobilisation in Europe and produce summary reports

Simwood team members consider the barriers to wood mobilisation on the Knoydart peninsulaAchieved: Five members of Forest Research’s staff from three science groups are contributing to the EU FP7 project SIMWOOD, which aims to increase the mobilisation of wood from forests and woodlands in Europe. The project seeks to energise and mobilise forest owners, promoting collaborative forest management and ensuring sustainable forest functions. The most recent output from the project is a policy brief summarising the partners’ findings on forests, wood markets and unused resource potentials. This is the first in a series of reports – other reports will include the topics of engagement, energy, capacity building and multipurpose management.

The SIMWOOD website gives detail about the progress of the project. The final conference will be in Paris, October 2017.

Lead the forestry input to the preparation of the Living With Environmental Change (LWEC) report card on the impact of climate change on UK agriculture and forestry

Achieved: The LWEC Agriculture and forestry climate change impacts report card 2016 (and its underpinning technical papers) were published on 22 July 2016. James Morison co-chaired its production, and forestry technical evidence reports were contributed by Forest Research colleagues including the Climate Change, Tree Health and Ecosystems teams.

The LWEC report card, and the technical papers that underpin it, are available to download. 

Contribute to the updated UK Forestry Standard to be published in 2016–17

Achieved: FR’s Chief Scientist, Peter Freer-Smith, represents FR in the UKFS Reference Group and FR scientists contributed to a number of sections of the UKFS. The FR Publications team worked closely with Richard Howe (who undertook a review on the future of the UKFS) on publishing a new edition. Following required editorial changes and Government guidance regarding communications in the pre-election period, publication will be in June 2017, though the exact date of publication is not under FR’s control.

Make available datasets for the National Forest Inventory, Public Forest Estate and Research Experiment as our contribution to the Open Data and INSPIRE programmes

Exceeded: the scoping exercise was completed and subsequently more than 250 Forestry Commission spatial and non-spatial datasets have been made available. This exceeds our initial commitment of 152 datasets.

Increase Forest Research’s online portfolio of information, publications and data

Achieved: During the year the Forest Research website was updated with information regarding new publications, new research projects and staff profiles. A significant increase in data was provided by the addition of information regarding statistics and the National Forest Inventory. A more substantial review and redesign of the FR website is being undertaken in 2017, prior to its migration to a new platform by 31 March 2018.

A number of staff made use of social media and blogs to interact with peers and promote FR work. For example, Chloe Bellamy provided a blog for the British Ecological Society regarding her Scottish parliamentary shadowing experience.

Publish UK National Statistics and Official Statistics releases on subjects including forestry statistics, timber price indices, UK wood production and analyses from the National Forest Inventory

Achieved: Publications include:

Contribute to the delivery of partners’ events including the Institute of Chartered Foresters Conference; Association of Professional Foresters Show; Royal Welsh Show; International Union of Forest Research Organizations Conference; and activities of the European Forest Institute

Achieved: Forest Research attended the ICF Conference (April 2016), and with three conference speakers, a stand in the main foyer and the timed launch of our Forest Yield software and user manual, received much attention.

The FR stand at the Royal Welsh Show (19–22 June 2016) highlighted recent publications and sources of advice. FR was asked by Welsh Government officials to participate in a forestry visit with Minister Lesley Griffiths AM (whose responsibilities include forestry) and a meeting is being arranged.

FR attended the APF Show (15–17 September 2016), co-sharing a marquee with FC England and highlighting aspects of FR’s work including the updated yield tables, pests and diseases, and the Observatree project. FR staff gave seminars on Observatree and small-scale harvesting machinery.

FR’s Chief Scientist Peter Freer-Smith is involved in developing IUFRO’s ‘New Generation Plantations’ conference planned for 2017. FR’s Chief Executive James Pendlebury chaired the EFI Annual Conference (September 2016), which focused on the relevance of the bio and circular economies and their relevance to the developing European research agenda.

Work with research partners to disseminate the results of national soil re-surveys that were undertaken to establish the effects of woodland creation and replanting on soil carbon

Achieved: Forest Research has worked with the James Hutton Institute (JHI) and Cranfield University on resampling sites from the 1970s Scottish soil survey and England and Wales soil survey that have been afforested. Both surveys have been carried out, chemical analysis has been done and results have been analysed. One project report has been submitted to the Forestry Commission, is approved and is being prepared as a joint FR/JHI publication. The report from FR/Cranfield is in the last stage of submission, having received FC’s comments.

Continue to secure external (non-CFS) income, with a target of £7.323 million

Exceeded: Forest Research secured £7.404 million of external income. This is a considerable achievement in a competitive environment and FR would like to commend and thank all colleagues for their sustained efforts. This achievement would not have been possible without the collaborative approach we have with our research partners and customers and we look forward to developing work in the future.

Provide our staff with training and mentoring opportunities

Achieved: Forest Research employees have undertaken a wide range of learning and development activities. During the year, a total of 422 training sessions were arranged and completed through the Learning and Development team covering different subject areas including management development, technical training, specialised professional development, soft skills/personal development, health and safety and information technology.

In addition specialised professional and technical training has been arranged using both external providers and in-house expertise; for example, FR staff participated on courses for mentoring scientific publication that were held in November 2016 at the Northern Research Station and Alice Holt.

FR’s Digital Media Manager provided training on social media – with a focus on Twitter. In addition, staff have been able to access e-learning through the on-line Civil Service Learning. FR has arranged additional courses not available centrally including First Aid and Fire Warden Training.

Many staff also carry out unstructured learning as part of their continuing professional development (CPD) activities and attend meetings of their relevant professional bodies, including training events (e.g. parliamentary shadowing opportunities and training on large grant bid writing both organised by the British Ecological Society). FR pathologists benefitted from a training course on molecular phylogeny training organised at Alice Holt with a specialist trainer from the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI, Pretoria, South Africa) with support from the Rufford Foundation and others, and two scientists attended a five-day course on structural equation modelling at Swansea University.

Integrate colleagues joining Forest Research in April 2016 and raise awareness and understanding of each other’s skills and capabilities

Achieved: There have been five meetings of the Culture Working Group (CWG), a group that involves around 15 colleagues from teams across FR. Actions to improve awareness and understanding have been discussed and implemented as appropriate. Recommendations have been made to improve consistency in the implementation of guidance on annual leave, time off in lieu, flexi-time and overtime. At the request of the CWG the application of the Job Evaluation and Grading Scheme to specialist technical posts has been revisited, discussed at the FR Executive Board and is has been referred back to the CWG for final comment. Developing a common culture within FR will continue to be discussed and promoted in FR in the future.

Contribute to governance projects and spending reviews

Achieved: Forest Research contributes to the Defra/Scottish Government ‘Forest Policy Governance Board’ specifically through the Oversight Group and Working Group on forest research provision. FR also contributes to the Forestry Commission’s Business Strategy Group – this considers work arising from the devolution of shared services including Corporate Services, Human Resources, IT and Finances.