completed projects completed projects completed projects

Scottish Forestry - RSFS Society Journal Digitisation

Carried out by: Royal Scottish Forestry Society

This funding support will help the RSFS to complete the digitisation of the journal "Scottish Forestry" from 2005-2015 and will ebable them to be made available for free access throught the Society's website.

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Fraxi Queen of the Forest-a new theatre production for young audiences

Carried out by: Asylon Theatre

This new theatre production is inspired by Ash die-back and mythology of ash trees and is aimed at young audiences principally primary school age.

The story is about change. Change that is the only constant in life. The audience discover the cycles of nature through the story of Fraxi the ash tree and the people connected to her over several generations of one family. Through the story they learn that nothing ever really dies in nature and that everything is always changing. It is a touching story of love, friendship, and resilience.

The project’s aim is to inspire children to care for and learn more about trees as well as raise awareness about importance of protection of local habitats as a way for sustainability of our natural environments.

Support from the Trust is targeted at post production workshops and accesibility costs. At present, the production is expected to tour primary schools in Edinburgh, Fife, Aberdeenshire, East Renfrewshire and the Outer Hebrides.

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Emergent forest dynamics and natural flood management

Carried out by: British Geological Survey

The main aim of the project is to improve the understanding of forests being planted or
conserved in view of mitigating floods, by understanding the development of optimum
characteristics of water flow and storage under three sites: heathland/pastureland,
mature scots pine plantation and ancient Caledonian forest. The study will test two

1. As the forest develops, the root system of the forest creates macropores and
increases organic matter optimising water flow and storage.
2. Springs develop under mature forests because the forest interacts with and
adjusts to the environment to form perched water tables.

The project will compare the flood mitigation potential of forest plantation, ancient
forest and heathland by measuring in-situ permeability measurements at different soil
depths and investigate the presence of springs within the three sites.

This pilot study will also examine past climate and local disturbance to deepen our
understanding of forest ecosystem resilience.


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Re-evaluating rotational upland Sitka spruce mixtures

Carried out by: Dr Scott McG Wilson

Drought damage to Sitka spruce in eastern Britain and disease impacts on pine and larch more widely, suggest that total reliance on Sitka spruce monocultures for upland forestry may prove unwise. Introduction or mutation of pests/ pathogens could have critical silvicultural and processing implications. While Sitka spruce endures, commercial growers are reluctant to select less familiar alternatives on a precautionary basis. Deployment of “insurance” mixtures of Sitka spruce and alternative productive conifers, capable of completing the rotation, offers a potential compromise. Key companion species include alternative spruces, Douglas fir, Abies firs and western hemlock. This short project will review the fairly restricted record for these “non-nursing” spruce mixtures in British upland forestry, emphasising silvicultural and wood property comparisons, based on literature review, technical discussions, comparative site-yield analyses and field inspection of relevant stands. Dissemination will be by short technical report/ information guide, articles for the forestry press and seminar presentations.

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The Sylva Project

Carried out by: Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh and the Sylva Foundation Trust

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and the Sylva Foundation Trust are delivering an innovative public engagement and learning initiative, the Sylva Project. The Project will run from the end of April 2014 to April 2015 and will engage directly with more than 100,000 people on issues relating to forestry, tree selection, silviculture and landscape, by delivering a touring exhibition and events programme. The aim of the Sylva Project is to increase understanding and awareness of forest utilisation among public audiences at seven botanic gardens and arboreta across the UK and Ireland. The Project takes it inspiration from two pivotal publications: John Evelyn’s 1664 Sylva and The New Sylva to be published by Bloomsbury in April 2014. It will focus on how forestry in Britain has changed over the 350 years between these books and consider what prospects hold for the future. 

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Inaugural Annual Lecture

Carried out by: Royal Scottish Forestry Society

This lecture by Professor T C Smout is seen as a prestigious event to mark the naming of Scotland’s national tree, which is expected to be Scots pine.  Professor Smout is acknowledged as the leading history authority on people and forestry in Scotland so the lecture should be entertaining and educational.

The lecture was held in the Budungo Lecture theatre, Edinburgh Zoo on Wednesday 19th March 2014 

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Continuous Cover Forestry: Delivering Sustainable and Resilient Woodlands in Britain. - National Conference 2014

Carried out by: The Continuous Cover Forestry Group

Forestry is undergoing a period of profound change and reassessment. At the forefront of our thinking is recognition that the global climate is changing and that many current practices need to be adapted to make our woodlands more resilient and robust into the future. We need new strategies for adding value and new market-led solutions for delivery of ecosystem services, while also diversifying the species and structure of our productive forest estate.

Continuous Cover Forestry (CCF) is now recognised as an important approach that has the potential to create diverse, resilient and robust forest systems. However, the transformation from largely even-aged stands in Britain to more complex and irregular structures remains a challenging area of professional practice. There is continuing demand for a stronger evidence-base and practical demonstration of CCF systems.


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Building capacity to restore Scotland's natural heritage

Carried out by: The Woodland Trust

Delivered within two priority regions in Scotland, Building capacity to restore Scotland’s natural heritage aims to deliver a unique programme of training and development for volunteers in ancient woodland restoration assessment.  Currently, there is virtually no ancient woodland restoration learning and training provision for non-specialist audiences available in the UK.  Through the project, volunteers will gain experience as part of a leading restoration project; engage over 1,400 people in ancient woodland restoration; and support the restoration of at least 3,200 hectares of priority Planted Ancient Woodland Sites (PAWS) in Scotland.  The volunteer programme will encourage a greater understanding of the significance of ancient woodland sites; develop specialist knowledge and skills required to evaluate ancient woodland; stimulate knowledge-sharing between organisations, landowners and industry specialists; and contribute to ancient woodland restoration at two priority sites in Scotland: the Cairngorms and Hinterland and Great Glen and Three Firths.

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Biodiversity training for communities

Carried out by: Central Scotland Forest Trust

CSFT’s Biodiversity Training for Communities project aims to increase the skills and confidence of community groups involved in managing or running a biodiversity or nature conservation site. It will deliver 15 free training events a year between 2012 and 2014 to community woodland groups, biodiversity interest groups and, where appropriate, be open to the general public aiming to increase involvement in these groups, and also national and local citizen science projects.

The events will cover a range of biodiversity focussed topics, including species and habitat surveying, habitat assessments, management plan production and implementation. They will feature both theory and practical sessions to allow participants to learn about the topics whilst also gaining practical experience. All course resources will be available for participants to take away and use on their own site or area, and it is anticipated that the sessions will evolve over time as participants become more experienced.

Further information on the courses can be found here.

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Research for Preparation of Book: Sitka spruce, an environmental history

Carried out by: Ruth Tittensor, Countryside Management Consultancy, Darvel, Ayrshire

Ruth is preparing and writing a book about a tree species which is an important contributor to UK industry and upland landscapes. Sitka spruce has a fascinating ecological and cultural history in North America and Europe (particularly Britain and Ireland) yet is still misunderstood and viewed with disquiet by the public which uses its products and forests on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.

The book, intended for a wide audience, will describe and explain how this rare conifer species of North American rainforest came to be chosen and used for planting in its hundreds of millions in Irish and British landscapes. Its cultural associations and contributions to First Nations’ and European society past and present will be discussed, as well as its role in native and plantation ecosystems on both sides of the Atlantic. Ruth intends to demonstrate the beauty of Sitka spruce and its benefits to society and the landscape.

The project will involve library research; discussions with ‘experts’ and ‘users’; visits to forests containing Sitka spruce in Britain, Ireland and North America; collating oral history contributions; obtaining and taking photographs; writing and graphics.


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OneOak Tree Exhibition - Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh

Carried out by: The Sylva Foundation

The concept of OneOak project has been to use the full story on a single tree as the foundation to an educational initiative promoting forestry (woodland management) and wood use to the public. The project concludes in 2012.

A typical British oak was donated by Blenheim Palace in late 2009, and since then has been followed closely by 250 Oxfordshire children, and by the wider public through events, exhibitions, a dedicated website and social media. The ordinary tree has become one of the most studied trees in Britain, thanks to support from Forest Research and other scientists (e.g. 3D laser scan, tree weight, carbon content). It has also featured in many stunning works of art, music and film.

The OneOak tree was felled in January 2010, and it has been used to make dozens of items from firewood, charcoal and woodchip, to braces in a timber-framed house and even sawdust used in smoking salmon by legendary chef Raymond Blanc. In the first half of 2012 some of Britain’s best furniture makers, joiners and other craftspeople used the kilned wood to make numerous other items.

A large number of events and activities, together with the website ( have been successful in telling the stories in the project. The project concludes in 2012 with a series of major exhibitions at which all the pieces from the project will be increasingly brought together under one roof. The final and major exhibition was hosted by Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh from October to December 2012.


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IUFRO Conference 2012 - Managing forest for ecosystem services: can spruce forests show the way?

Carried out by: Forest Research

This meeting enabled researchers, practitioners and policymakers to present and discuss findings on how best to translate the concepts promulgated by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA) and successor documents into strategic, tactical and operational management regimes that will help adapt forests to meet changes in climate and in societal demands.

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Alternative Silvicultural Systems - study of adoption and development of case-studies

Carried out by: Dr. Scott McG Wilson

This project recorded and evaluated applications of alternative silvicultural systems to clear-cutting (ATC) by British forest managers. Recent years have seen increasing adoption of ATC across many ownerships, with multiple objectives. No comprehensive register of examples has been produced since the 1990’s. Project work will centre on desk-review with extensive correspondence enquiries of woodland owners and managers, supported by existing field records / photographs held by the researcher. Additional field visits will be conducted to supplement these. Central project outputs will be a technical report on key issues and an up-to-date locational database of British woodlands where ATC are being adopted, with selected field examples developed into illustrated case-study reports to encourage future ATC information exchange/ site networking. There will be evaluation of methods for quantitative monitoring of silvicultural transformation. Results will be reported in the forestry press and at seminars. Outputs should inform wider adoption of alternative silviculture.

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Improving the production of local origin Aspen in Scotland

Carried out by: Coille Alba

Most nursery production of Scottish Aspen relies on vegetative propagation using roots collected in the wild. However this method is very labour-intensive, and productivity varies greatly between clones. This is generally thought to be determined genetically, but there is evidence that environmental factors may also play a role. In particular, it has been noted that root suckers may be much more prolific where the ground has been disturbed, such as in areas trampled by cattle. This effect may be caused by exposure of roots to higher light levels, to higher temperatures or to physical trauma, or a combination of these. It is proposed to experimentally manipulate the roots' in situ environment, and to assess the impact of this ‘conditioning’ on subsequent sucker production in the nursery.

If root conditioning is shown to significantly increase sucker production, this finding will have an important practical application. It will make vegetative propagation more cost-effective. It will be particularly useful for otherwise low-yielding clones, and thereby make it easier to include a more diverse mix of clones in planting schemes, in accordance with best practice, and as required by the FRM regulations.

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Soil Carbon, Farm Woodlands, and the Woodland Carbon Code

Carried out by: Cranfield University

Much afforestation in recent years has taken place on agricultural land. Whilst ostensibly this is good news for climate change mitigation, the carbon balance of these new woodlands is poorly understood. Of particular importance is the need to understand how carbon stocks below ground have been affected by afforestation.

The aim of this project is to investigate the effect of tree planting on farmland on the quantity, depth and type of below ground carbon. This will be assessed through excavation of root systems and sampling of soil carbon stocks and ‘fractionation’ to determine likely residence times for carbon in the soil. The implications for the ‘Woodland Carbon Code’ will be investigated following a life cycle analysis methodology.

Using a loader to weigh branches from a felled hybrid poplar for quantifying carbon content. Silsoe silvoarable agroforestry trial (June 2011) - Matthew Upson.

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A palaeoecological investigation of Tilia cordata in Skelghyll and Common Woods Cumbria

Carried out by: Dr Helen Shaw, Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University

This project investigated the history of two different woodlands near Windermere: Skelghyll and Common woods. The project used palaeoecological analysis to determine the ecological history of the woodland at the local, or stand, scale via the analysis of pollen from peat deposits in small hollows under the woodland canopy. The results questioned the longevity and presence of small-leaved lime (Tilia cordata) in each of the woodlands in order to answer questions raised by the National Trust on the provenance of this species in the woodland. This information will contribute to future woodland management and may establish the woodlands as ancient and therefore of importance.

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Susceptibility of Scots and Lodgepole pine provenances to Red Band Needle Blight caused by Dothistroma septosporum

Carried out by: Aberdeen University; Forest Research

This project began on 1st October 2011, when the student Stuart Fraser (BSc Sheffield; MSc Imperial) took up the position at the University of Aberdeen in collaboration with Forest Research. It is the first Trust supported project to receive support from The Scottish Forestry Trust-Forestry Commission Joint Bursary Award Scheme, and also received funding from Forest Enterprise Scotland and the Forestry Commission.

The study has 2 objectives 

Objective 1. To determine the relative susceptibility of different host species to Dothistroma septosporum, (the causal agent of red band needle blight in Britain), with particular reference to different provenances of Scots and lodgepole pine.

Objective 2. To compare host resistance mechanisms between provenances and between species in response to inoculation with Dothistroma septosporum.

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Growth and survival of provenances of snow gums (Eucalyptus pauciflora) and other hardy eucalypts

Carried out by: University of Cumbria

This project explored the performance of species and provenances of particularly hardy Eucalyptus in two of four trials established in 1985. The origins selected in the trials were based on performance of trials established in 1981 and which were subjected to a particularly severe winter in 1981/82. A trial in the series at Chiddingfold near Forest Research’s Alice Holt research station was assessed in 2009. The project involved examining growth and survival of a trial at Torridge and one at Thetford of snow gums and other more hardy origins.

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Approaches to the retention of timber potential when restoring or enhancing PAWS sites

Carried out by: Scott McG Wilson

Twenty-seven case-studies highlighted approaches including reduction of coniferous canopy density by regeneration thinning, respacing of natural hardwood/ mixed regeneration, enrichment planting, and tending of young hardwoods (brashing, pruning, thinning). Retained timber potential can be found on all ownership classes. Many successful examples involved “traditional estate” forestry and “continuous-cover” forestry techniques with regular monitoring and interventions. Improved woodfuel prices support earlier respacing/ thinning of hardwoods. Financial considerations, stand instability/ windthrow hazard and perceived biodiversity/ conservation constraints impede retention of timber potential on PAWS restoration/ enhancement sites in some cases, favouring clearfell/ restock working. However the predominant limiting factor is the shortage (and perceived decline) of the practical forestry skills and experience that are necessary to optimise timber potential. Effective enabling actions are likely to include simplification/ relaxation of PAWS restoration prescriptions, under-pinning of the forestry training infrastructure and encouragement of technical information exchange. The insights reported will inform the latter angle.


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The Social History of Forestry

Carried out by: University of the Highlands and Islands

This project aims to research through personal interviews and ultimately produce a book describing the contribution that forestry has made to the social fabric and economy of Scotland. Looking back to the early 1900's, the work will include interviews with a number of surviving individuals who either worked in “the forestry” or had an influence in its policy development including the added value processing sector.

Further assistance of £1,000 was provided in 2016 to enable full colour illustrations for the book now called "Voices of the  Forest".

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Documentary - Finding David Douglas

Carried out by: Forestry Commission and the Oregon Cultural Heritage Commission

The Trust made a contribution towards the costs of researching and filming an educational documentary programme on the life and work of David Douglas, botanist and explorer who travelled extensively to bring back new plant species to Scotland, including the Douglas Fir.

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Continuous Cover Forestry at Glentress

Carried out by: Edinburgh University; Forest Research

The Glentress Trial Area is one of the longest running Continuous Cover Forestry (CCF) trials in the world. It was established in 1952 by Professor Mark Anderson, who was then the head of the forestry department at the University of Edinburgh. He managed to persuade the Forestry Commission of the value of long term trial areas and was given 117 ha of Glentress forest. The overall aim of the Trial Area was to transform from even-aged stands to an irregular structure using a group selection system over a 60 year transformation period. The transformation involved felling two hectares, made up of multiple group selections between 0.1 and 0.2 ha in size in any one year. Therefore over a 60 year period, the entire Trial Area would have been felled and the groups would be at varying stages of development.

The PhD project aimed to assess forest structure in the Trial Area which was last updated in 1990. The project utilized simple models (the reverse-J distribution and the Equilibrium Growing Stock (EGS)), seedling physiology and a hybrid gap model in an effort to gain a better understanding of the effects of management on stand structure.

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Sitka Spruce Segregation and Cutting

Carried out by: Greg Searles at the Centre for Timber Engineering and Forest Research

This project had four key aims and objectives:

1. Investigate the potential causes of error when using acoustic instruments to measure stiffness of standing trees and logs, examining effects such season, dominance class and silviculture.

2. Compare the accuracy of standing tree instruments to predict log velocity with other indicators such as live crown ratio and slenderness.

3. Simulate a standing tree acoustic measurement, examine the wave propagation behaviour and compare results with fundamental theories presented in the wood science literature and qualitatively examine the possible interaction with variation in density of the outer part of a tree.

4. Determine if alternative cutting patterns based on log acoustics could be a viable way of maintaining the viability of sawmilling in the face of declining timber quality.

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Bechstein's Bat Survey

Carried out by: Bat Conservation Trust

The project is the first time that this most elusive bat has been the subject of a concerted effort to establish baseline distribution data across the entire species range in England and Wales. The aim of the project  was to produce a more accurate distribution map and gather information to inform future conservation policy and woodland management.

The Bechstein's bat is one of the rarest of our mammals and a UK Biodiversity Action Plan priority species. Until now it has been difficult to detect as it rarely leaves the canopy of its favoured broadleaf woodland habitat.

Leading UK bat researchers developed and tested a ground-breaking technique to relay ultrasonic social calls to locate these very secretive bats. Their survey techniques have been adopted as the basis for the National Bechstein's Bat Survey across southern England and Wales. The project relied on the involvement of experienced, specially trained volunteers recruited through the local bat group network and the support of landowners and woodland managers.

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Modelling the effects of forest management on the wood properties and branch characteristics of UK-grown Scots pine

Carried out by: Aberdeen University; Forest Research

Changes in silvicultural practices in recent decades—wider initial spacings, a preference for artificial regeneration, and an increased use of mechanised thinnings, have led to concerns about the suitability of Scots pine timber for use in structural applications due to potentially poorer stem form, a greater proportion of juvenile wood and larger, more numerous knots.

As part of the research presented in the paper, novel predictive equations were developed for the key physical, mechanical and branching properties that determine structural timber quality in Scots pine, namely: microfibril angle, wood density, clearwood bending strength and stiffness, and branch number, size, insertion angle and status (alive or dead).

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Testing the Adaptive Significance of Seed Zones in Scots Pine

Carried out by: University of Edinburgh; The Centre for Ecology and Hydrology; The James Hutton Insitute; Forest Research

This project, supported by the Trust, used a combination of molecular markers and growth experiments to assess the effectiveness of designated seed zones in Scots pine for the conservation of adaptive variation. The research concluded that there is strong evidence for genetic variation among native Scots pine populations in Scotland in terms of phenology and response to low winter temperature and drought.

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Volunteering in Woodlands - Motivations and Barriers

Carried out by: Liz O'Brien at Forest Research

This project focused on practical environmental volunteering to explore what motivates people to become involved in practical volunteering work, what benefits they gain from their involvement and are there any potential barriers to getting or staying involved.

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Determining the genetic heritability of wood properties of Sitka spruce critical to timber strength

Carried out by: Aberdeen University; Forest Research

The aim of the Sitka spruce breeding programme has been to increase productivity whilst improving timber quality for use in the construction industry. While increasing productivity has largely been achieved, higher rates of growth achieved have raised concerns that wood properties associated
with timber strength may be compromised due to a greater proportion of weaker juvenile
wood being present.

This project studied the problem of final timber strength by determining genetic heritabilities and
correlations of certain wood properties of Sitka spruce critical to timber strength within
the outer zone of the juvenile core. The ultimate aim is to determine whether progenies
with both favourable growth rate and timber strength properties can be identified from
within the breeding population.

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Adaptation of Ash (Fraxinus excelsior) to Climate Change

Carried out by: Jo Clark, Bangor University

The aim of this part-time PhD is to test the adaptability of native ash from a range of UK locations to the predicted climate in 2080.
The specific objectives are to:

  • identify provenances of ash that may be closely matched to the future climate and to test them in the current climate through a series of reciprocal transplant experiments
  • determine the phenology of ash provenances in relation to their suitability for growing in the predicted climate of 2080
  • determine the stratification (cold pretreatment) requirements of the seed of ash pronenances
  • determine levels and effects of outbreeding depression

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Validation of a stem straightness scoring system for Sitka spruce

Carried out by: Forest Research

This project refined and tested a prototype scoring system for the visual assessment of stem straightness in Sitka spruce. The original system comprised a six-point scoring system from 1 (least straight) to 6 (straightest) based on an estimate of straight log lengths in the first 6 m of the stem. A longer log length category and additional score were added to the system to increase relevance to industry practice.

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