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DiversiTree: £500k awarded to increase UK woodland resilience

DiversiTree: £500k awarded to increase UK woodland resilience
“Climate change, pests and diseases are a threat to our UK woodlands. This funding is very welcome, as it will allow us to understand how woodland managers and other stakeholders understand woodland diversity, and their ambitions for future woods. From this, we can investigate the opportunities for diversification, and the positive impact it could have on resilience, biodiversity and ecosystem functions”

The UK Research and Innovation has awarded £516,524 to DiversiTree, a collaborative project led by the James Hutton Institute, to investigate resilience across the country’s woodlands.

Woods and forests account for more than 13% of the UK’s land surface, but the UK government’s ambition is to increase this to 17% as part of UK’s plans to reach net zero emissions by 2050. 

In the right place, these new woodlands can also provide benefits such as reducing flooding and supporting biodiversity, however threats from climate change, pests and diseases may inhibit their ability to do so.

DiversiTree is a collaborative project between James Hutton Institute, Bangor University, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, RSPB, University of Birmingham and the Woodland Trust, and it will provide woodland managers with the knowledge and tools required to make our woods and forests more resilient.

This project will allow researchers to

  • understand how woodland managers and other stakeholders understand diversity within woodlands, and what their ambitions are in relation to resilient future woods
  • measure the impact of a diverse tree species mixture on the leaf microbiome and the potential impacts of this for resilience against pathogens
  • understand how diversification of woods can increase the resilience of woodland ecosystem functions and the wider woodland biodiversity, such as birds, insects, mammals and plants.
  • provide practical advice on the methods to, and the impacts of, diversifying tree species composition.

Dr Ruth Mitchell, an Ecologist at the James Hutton Institute and lead of the DiversiTree project said: “Climate change, pests and diseases are a threat to our UK woodlands. This funding is very welcome, as it will allow us to understand how woodland managers and other stakeholders understand woodland diversity, and their ambitions for future woods. From this, we can investigate the opportunities for diversification, and the positive impact it could have on resilience, biodiversity and ecosystem functions.” 

DiversiTree is one of six projects to be awarded a share of £3million over the next two years from UK Research and Innovation. Each one will improve our understanding of the composition of treescapes in the UK, and their value to people and the planet. The research will also support the Government’s ambition to increase the size and number of woodlands across the country.

Notes to Editors:

Paul Bellamy, RSPB’s Senior Conservation Scientist said: “We’re delighted to be a partner in this exciting collaborative project. DiversiTree will help us understand how diverse conifer woodlands can continue to support specialist species such as Scottish Crossbill and whether resilient and diverse woodlands support resilient and diverse biodiversity.”

Woodland Trust conservation evidence manager Chris Nichols said: “Woodland diversity is an incredibly important part of creating and managing resilient ecosystems for people and wildlife, now and into the future. “The DiversiTree project puts woodland managers at the heart of the project and allows them to turn evidence into action. The Woodland Trust is particularly interested in how the project will help give practical solutions to many of the threats highlighted in our groundbreaking State of the UK’s Woods and Trees report.”

Professor Rob Jackson, University of Birmingham ”Microbes play a key role in helping plants to fight off pests and pathogens. We will investigate whether planting different tree species together leads to more diverse tree microbes on tree leaves and if this also helps trees to fend off pathogens.” 

Chris Ellis, RBGE Lichen Ecologist said: “Pests and diseases threaten not just individual trees, but thousands of other species that are intimately associated with our trees, woodlands and forests. DiversiTree will help us to better plan and manage our woodlands and forests so that biodiversity and ecosystem functions, such as carbon storage or water regulation, are resilient and continue to provide value. The role of small organisms such as lichens is really important, but frequently overlooked, and we’re excited to be learning more about them for woodland and forest protection.”

The James Hutton Institute is a world-leading, multi-site scientific organisation encompassing a distinctive range of integrated strengths in land, crop, waters, environmental and socio-economic science. The Institute has a staff of nearly 500 and 125 PhD students and takes its name from the 18th-century Scottish Enlightenment scientist, James Hutton, widely regarded as the founder of geology and agronomist.

Press and media enquiries: 

For media enquiries contact Lisa Donnelly,Tel: 07711 476772 Clark Communications


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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.