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Habitat Management and Restoration

Land use change is a major contributing factor to the threats faced by Scottish biodiversity. The way in which land is both used and managed will be critical in determining the rate biodiversity is regenerated or lost, especially in the face of a changing climate. Loss of biodiversity has devastating impacts on ecosystem services and environmental health.

Woodland habitats are invaluable areas with the potential for high biodiversity. With the adoption of Net Zero Emissions targets increasing within both the private and public sectors, the demand for investment in woodland habitat restoration has increased in recent years. Woodland restoration relates to the recovery of woodland habitats through a variety of methods and practises, including:

  • Policy shifts to those centred around biodiversity friendly land use methods
  • Habitat improvement and regeneration
  • Increases in habitat connectivity to support the growth of biodiversity between areas

This project will investigate and answer three key questions in three corresponding Work Packages:

1. Mapping the flows of benefits and risks from woodland expansion in Scotland - How can public and private sector investors, at low risk, restore woodland habitats for multiple benefits to society in addition to increasing natural carbon capture and biodiversity, and what land is available for this?

The interdisciplinary approach will include the mapping of the past flows of benefits and risks derived from woodland expansion based on both socio-economic analysis and communities' lived experiences. The vulnerability of native woodlands under different climate scenarios will also be explored and current research on the subject will be assessed. The benefits and unintended consequences of future woodland restoration will be analysed through a variety of methods, including Agent Based Modelling, map-based integrated socio-biophysical modelling, community-based participatory assessments, and mixed methods sociological approaches.

For more information read this.

2. What is the impact of Muirburn on nature and how does this impact compare to wildfires and mechanical removal of vegetation?

Case studies of habitat restoration and management will be utilised to investigate the impact on biodiversity regarding muirburn across mainland Scotland. The occurrence and impact of wildfires relating to muirburn will also be explored. Mechanical methods such as mowing are being considered as an alternative to muirburn, but their influence on biodiversity, fire risk and soil remain undetermined. The aim will therefore be to highlight the impacts and interaction between muirburn and wildfire and provide information on the effects of mechanical removal when compared to muirburn.

3. How do our ancient woodlands function and how successful is woodland restoration?

To fully understand how ancient woodlands function, a greater understanding of woodland ecosystems is needed, especially in regard to soil organic matter and carbon cycling. Advanced eDNA metabarcoding will be employed to build on existing work in order to generate highly detailed community profiles of soil organisms to allow for comparison between case study sites. Changes in ecosystem properties and restoration success at the sites will be assessed, as well as the levels of biodiversity observed.

These outputs will be applied to inform current and future government policies in order to  tackle the threats faced by Scottish biodiversity. 


The Principle Investigator is Andy Taylor (  

Team members include: Marie Castellazzi, Alessandro Gimona, Matt Hare, Ade Ibiyemi, Kate Irvine, Anna Conniff Roy Neilson, Doug Salt, Jenni Stockan,  Andy Taylor and Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE): Chris Ellis.

Acknowledgement: 'Habitat Management and Restoration' (JHI-D4-4)  is supported by the Rural and Environment Science and Analytical Services Division of the Scottish Government through its Strategic Research Programme (2022-2027) as part of the Biodiversity theme.


Project Information
Project Type: 
Active Project


Areas of Interest

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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.