Researchers to make trees more resilient to climate change

© Meryll

Six research teams across the UK will receive a share of £10.5 million to help trees adapt to climate change and capture greenhouse gas emissions

Expanding the UK’s trees, woodlands and forests will help the government to reach its net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, however, our treescapes need to become more resilient to pressures such as changing climate.

The six projects, which will receive funding from UK Research and Innovation, aim to:

  • Understand how local authorities are meeting their tree planting targets, the cultural significance of trees to communities and how well they capture greenhouse gases.
  • Work creatively with young people to co-produce new approaches to creating and caring for treescapes that benefit the environment and society.
  • Investigate how trees respond to stress and pass on that memory to future generations.
  • Assess the potential of woodland restoration along over 200,000 km of England’s rivers and bodies of water.
  • Examine how community forests enable stakeholders to work in partnership to deliver multiple benefits from forests.
  • Study whether trees can adapt effectively to climate change, pests and diseases.

The projects include:

  • Connected treescapes: A portfolio approach for delivering multiple public benefits from UK treescapes in the rural-urban continuum – Led by Professor Piran White and Dr Julia Touza from the University of York.
  • Voices of the future: Collaborating with children and young people to re-imagine Treescapes – Led by Professor Kate Pahl from Manchester Metropolitan University.
  • Branching Out: New Routes to Valuing Urban Treescapes – Led by Professor Michael Wilson from Loughborough University.
  • MEMBRA: Understanding Memory of UK Treescapes for Better Resilience and Adaptation – Led by Dr Estrella Luna-Diez from the University of Birmingham.
  • Creative Adaptive Solutions for Treescapes Of Rivers (CASTOR).
  • Learning to adapt to an uncertain future: Linking genes, trees, people and processes for more resilient treescapes (newLEAF) – Led by Dr Stephen Cavers from the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology.


Forestry Minister Lord Zac Goldsmith said:

“I am delighted to be supporting this new research programme, which will emphasise the importance of treescapes and help deliver our tree planting ambitions.

“In the run-up to COP26 this is an exciting opportunity to showcase how the UK’s cutting-edge science can deepen our understanding of the health and environmental benefits provided by trees while ensuring they are protected for future generations.”

Programme Ambassador, Professor Clive Potter of the Centre for Environmental Policy at Imperial College London, said:

“Threats to and the vital role of treescapes have never been clearer. The UK government is creating ambitious policies and targets towards increasing tree cover and managing tree health, but better evidence of how to achieve this is crucial in underpinning the success of such initiatives.”

Programme Ambassador, Dr Julie Urquhart of the Countryside & Community Research Institute at the University of Gloucestershire, said:

“We wanted to encourage new interdisciplinary collaborations that would develop potential pioneering projects that will shape and deepen our understanding of the environmental, social, cultural and economic value of trees, woods and forests to society for years to come.

“This programme and its projects are partnering with stakeholders from policy, land ownership and civil society, to ensure the outcomes have direct application to achieving climate change, nature recovery and wellbeing goals.”

Professor Sir Duncan Wingham, Executive Chair of NERC, part of UK Research and Innovation, said:

“Our trees and forests are a precious resource and part of the solution to tackling the climate and ecological emergencies we face and helping the UK reach net zero in 2050.

“This research will increase our understanding of the huge societal, economic, cultural and environmental benefits associated with treescapes. This includes the importance of trees in urban spaces, why we connect with forests, and how we encourage landowners and farmers to plant more trees.

“This knowledge will help us identify where and how we can expand our woodlands and ensure their resilience to pressures and stresses over decades and centuries.”

Chris Stark, Head of Sustainable Management at Scottish Forestry, said:

“Scotland’s ambition is to reach net-zero by 2045 and the country’s forests and woodlands are playing a significant role in helping us achieve this target.

“Scotland provides around 80% of the UK woodland creation target. We are increasing our yearly woodland creation targets to 18,000 hectares a year by 2024 to 2025 and this will help soak up millions of harmful CO2 emissions. This increase in woodland cover will also improve the environment, boost nature and generate over a £1 billion to the Scottish economy each year.

“We are supportive of the different strands to this research which will help inform how we manage and futureproof our woodland resource for generations to come.”

You can find more details on the projects here.


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