Projects in Progress

This is a list of projects supported by The Scottish Forestry Trust since 2008 which are still underway.

The Dynamic Conservation of Genetic Diversity in Juniper - Phase 2

Carried out by: Centre for Ecology and Hydrology

Protection of genetic diversity within tree species (genetic resources) is vital to ensure their long-term capability to adapt to change. Juniper (Juniperus communis) is under severe pressure in the UK due to its highly reduced and fragmented population size, low regeneration rates, climate change and the arrival of a novel pathogen, Phytophthora austrocedri. This project enables extension of an existing M.Sc. project into a PhD studentship. The results will address fundamental gaps in the understanding of genetic diversity in Juniper, and will translate that into conservation measures via the EUFORGEN dynamic conservation framework. The student will make use of excellent baseline datasets and experiments, and will generate new global data. The project will aim to:

  1. Characterise genetic diversity in natural populations
  2. Quantify adaptive genetic variation in experimental populations
  3. Translate research findings into guidance for management and restoration

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Balancing Benefits and Trade Offs from Future Forests

Carried out by: University of Stirling

This PhD project sets out to explore how we create multifunctional forests in the UK context to optimise biodiversity, carbon sequestration and economic value for timber production and maximise their public acceptability in the context of ambitious targets for forest and woodland expansion and the likelihood of increasing land-use conflict in an environmentally uncertain future. The project integrates a diverse and experienced multidisciplinary team across academia, government agency and private land-owner to deliver outcomes expected to include policy and management advice, published outputs in peer reviewed academic and practitioner journals and a Forest Research research note. The project is designed to generate impact through revised guidance in future forestry, land use and biodiversity strategies.

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Built by Nature: Sharing value chain stories to facilitate change

Carried out by: Evolving Forests

If we are to seriously increase woodland management in the UK and homegrown timber into construction, increasing the volumes of carbon stored in the built environment, cross-industry knowledge sharing and open discussion is vital. We will use the creation of richly visual and compelling media (video, animation, writing, narration) to act as a catalyst to join up stakeholders to discuss current issues, techniques, and innovations. This project will bring lessons from across Europe in forest management and construction to UK specific contexts through its matching with Built by Nature (BbN) funding. The media will act as a vehicle to spark deeper debate and forward-looking panel discussions on the current and future possibilities of UK timber in construction and resilient woodland management practices. Support from SFT will extend this work and enable a number of podcasts based on the above to be developed.

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Creating Canopy: the biology and practice of establishing trees and woodlands for people and nature

Carried out by: Association of Applied Biologists

The AAB ‘Applied Tree and Forest Biology’ specialist group is organising this three-day conference at the University of Nottingham in November 2023. This event has two phases. Firstly a two-day conference will shine a light on new and emerging priorities, latest research and technical advances related to creating canopy. Secondly on day 3 they will host a workshop co-organised by the FraxNet Ash Network. Delegates are invited to join for one, two or three days, either in-person or virtually. Support requested to fund early career professionals to attend.

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Quantifying the Magnitude and Duration of Tree Water Stress

Carried out by: Forest Research

Drought-induced, radial-longitudinal stem cracks are a consequence of meteorological drought. Sitka spruce stands in North-East of Scotland have been reported to have suffered cracks due to hot and dry summers. Since then, these areas have been classified as high drought risk mainly because of their freely-drain soil. However, very little is known about the physiological water stress trees are experiencing. This project will quantify the magnitude and duration of water stress of the soil-plant-atmosphere continuum of Sitka spruce in two locations to evaluate the role of water stress in stem cracks. The researchers will use the latest technology in the "Internet of Things" sensors with a newly developed method of quantifying water stress based on electric circuit theory. Evidence  will be proviedd for areas where trees are experiencing water stress, leading to potential stem cracks.

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The Environmental Impact of Horse Logging in the UK

Carried out by: Christina Jackson-Szczyrbowski (Liverpool John Moores University)

This research looks to value the lay knowledge of professional horse-loggers in the UK. This knowledge type, alongside local and indigenous knowledge,  has growing recognition by the international scientific community in supporting climate change mitigation and adaptation. Themes will emerge from the data which will provide insight into the practice and could potentially highlight UK specific sustainability considerations for the future of forestry  operations within the UK.

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An Easier Route for Strength Grading Hardwoods

Carried out by: Edinburgh Napier University

This three year Bursary project aims to improve strength grading options for home-grown hardwoods, allowing them to be used in construction, raising value, and meeting national objectives for more environmentally friendly buildings. Current options are limited, so the researcher will create the foundation for a more cost-effective route to establishing grading, and easier-to-apply visual grading rules for small producers. Properties of three, strategically chosen, home-grown hardwood species will be characterised by non-destructive methods and small clear testing. Models will be created for predicting full-size timber properties from these measurements. It will be explored how these models can be used for timber grading, and transferred to other hardwood species. Potential for working within the current framework of standards and regulations will be assessed. It is expected that some results will combine with related research in Europe, to directly influence the revision of key standards e.g. EN384.

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Efficacy of One-Way Hare Structures in Woodland Areas

Carried out by: Scottish Woodlands

This project aims to investigate the effectiveness of one-way structures in allowing hares to escape from fenced woodland enclosures. This will be done through implementing innovative exit structures to allow for the safe passageway of hares, and to subsequently monitor the use of the structures by hare species through the implementation of camera traps. This will allow for a greater insight into the behaviour of hare species, and into the practicality of exit structures in protecting newly planted trees against hare damage. Furthermore, this will set a precedent for greater research into more effective alternatives to hare management within the forestry industry. 

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Early Researchers Conference Fund

Carried out by: Scottish Forestry Trust

The purpose of this funding initiative is to provide support for conference attendance by recently qualified forestry researchers (those with fewer than 4 years post-doctoral experience, or for non-doctoral staff fewer than 7 years post-graduate experience) who are employed in UK research institutes. The support is aimed at staff attending conferences both in the UK and overseas at which they may be involved in presentations (including posters) or actively building networks or contacts linked to future research funding proposals. Those attending will be expected to provide the Trust with a short report on their experience at the event including any networking outcomes achieved. Applications should be submitted on behalf of the attendees by the employing organisation.

This is now a rolling fund and with a defined budget of £5,000 per annum. Applications can be submitted at any time.

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Working Woods Scotland Course 2022 & 2023

Carried out by: Association of Scottish Hardwood Sawmillers (ASHS)

The Working Woods Scotland (WWS) Course is a 3-day training event that brings together professionals from across the homegrown Scottish Hardwood (and premium softwood) industry; from foresters and woodland managers, to sawmillers and woodworkers. WWS course content covers all aspects of the industry, teaching attendees about silvicultural practices for hardwood production, grading and valuing standing timber and round logs, hardwood processing (such as milling and kilning practices), and finding a market for your hardwood timber products. The course is also designed to help build links with other professionals in the industry, increasing mutual understanding and encouraging trade and collaboration across the industry to its (and their individual businesses) benefits. Funding will be split over 2 years to help fund the WWS courses that are scheduled to run in Autumn 2022, and 2023.

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Identification of Filamentous Pathogens in Leaves

Carried out by: University of Birmingham (BiFor)

This Bursary project aims to use Raman spectroscopy to deepen the understanding of fungal infections within trees, specificall ash die back and oak powdery mildew. This will involve examining the leaf wax and cuticle layers of leaves from the respective trees and using Raman spectroscopy to identify any microscopic chemical changes. This knowledge will be used to develop a sensor to allow early identification of ash dieback and oak powdery mildew in the field.

The project will be building on current and past research into leaf Raman spectroscopy by developing a detailed model of fungal infection and resistance.

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Identifying Alternatives to Conventional Plastic Tree Shelters

Carried out by: Forest Research in behalf of the Forestry Plastics Group

The high cost of returning to a site and removing and disposing of used plastic tree shelters at the end of their useful life has meant that in many cases they are simply left to gradually photodegrade. Not only is this unsightly, but it forms a source of plastic micro pollution in the developing forest. For this reason, a number of manufacturers have been striving in recent years to develop tree shelters, often made from materials other than conventional plastics, that could in theory be left in situ on site without a need for them to be removed and recycled.


This project aims to independently verify the durability and efficacy of a range of these alternative products. Depending on results, the intention would be to publish at least one paper in a reputable peer reviewed scientific journal to publicise our findings. In addition, a dedicated webpage will be set up, and at least one trade journal article will be produced to publicise the scientific paper, and to give clear, practical recommendations for managers.

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Pilot Initiative to Inspire Future Foresters via STEM Activity in Schools

Carried out by: Confor

This is a partnership initiative between Confor and the Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI) to expose young people to the range of opportunities that exist within the forestry and timber technologies sector via STEM club activity in schools. The pilot is planned to last 3 years in the first instance and will target S1-S3 pupils in the Highland Council area on two programmes - Climate Smarter and Highland Celebration of Engineering starting in the Academic Year 2021/2022. Climate Smarter involves pupils engaging in a project around future schools and a resource pack on use of homegrown timber in buildings will be integrated into this successful SCDI programme. The partnership and initial engagement with schools will focus around an event linked to COP26.

SCDI have access to over 1600 primary and secondary schools across Scotland via their YOung Engineers and Science Clubs and they operate a number of initiatives and competitions to excite and engage young people of all ages.

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Enhancing Integrated Pest Management in Forestry

Carried out by: Forest Research

This research project supported by the Bursary Fund wil evaluate the use of entomological Integrated Pest Management in forestry, using case studies to identify the drivers and barriers to successful implementation, and form consluding recommendations to enhance forestry practice. The case studies will focus on the great spruce bark beetle (Dendroctonus micans) and the large pine weevil  (Hylobius abietis).

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Dynamic conservation of genetic diversity in Juniper

Carried out by: CEH/Edinburgh University/Forest Research

Protection of genetic diversity within tree species (genetic resources) is vital to ensure their long-term capability to adapt to change. Juniper (Juniperus communis) is under severe pressure in the UK due to its highly reduced and fragmented population size, low regeneration rates, climate change and the arrival of a novel pathogen, Phytophthora austrocedri.

This project will help to support an MPhil studentship to address fundamental gaps in our understanding of levels and management of genetic diversity in Juniper in the UK, and to translate that into conservation measures via the EUFORGEN dynamic conservation framework.

The project will aim to:

1. Characterise genetic diversity in natural populations

2. Quantify adaptive genetic variation in experimental populations

3. Translate research findings into guidance for management and restoration

Note this project was adjusted and fund reduced due to changes in research students in 2022.

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Securing good quality acorn material in the UK

Carried out by: Future Trees Trust

The ‘Boom and Bust’ (masting) patterns of acorn production have significant economic impacts: it results in an unreliable annual supply of well-adapted and high-quality acorns to forestry, while there is a high demand every year. Shortages are problematic since recalcitrant seeds cannot easily be stored, imported seeds may be of an unsuitable provenance and pose biosecurity risks. The aim of this doctoral research is to investigate the highly variable acorn production by native oak in the UK, so as to inform seed supply industry and seed stand management.

It will aim to answer the questions:

1. What is the (historic pattern) of masting and mean acorn production in the UK at the seed zone level?

2. When, and at what phenological stage is seed development currently halted (i.e. what are the premature abscission rates at each phenological stage)?


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Improved pretreatments and fractionation of soft and hardwoods to access feedstock chemicals

Carried out by: University of St Andrews

Whilst current approaches to the use of wood are highly optimised and integrated, novel technologies can be developed that further improve the efficiency of use of all the possible product streams. The current use of LIGNIN derived from wood is to burn it and this represents an inefficient use of this potentially valuable resource. It is desirable to convert wood into a set of product streams that can be used for several different applications.

One of these streams should be a high quality Lignin, whilst other streams should contain cellulose and hemicellulose-derived sugars. Current methods of isolating high quality lignin from (i) Sitka spruce and (ii) mixtures of soft and hardwoods can be improved. After isolation from the wood, it will be advantageous to purify (fractionate) the Lignin before attempts are made to convert it to feedstock chemicals. The proposed programme of work builds on these assumptions.

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Addressing uncertainty to improve urban tree management

Carried out by: University of Southampton

Eighty-percent of the UK population live in towns and cities. Urban trees provide numerous benefits to urban society, including air pollution removal, building energy conservation, urban climate regulation, and access to nature. Urban tree managers and government agencies are interested in assessing the magnitude and socially equitable distribution of urban tree benefit delivery, and building resilience under a changing climate. However, a national picture of urban forest cover, composition and quality does not exist. At the city scale, such information is occasionally available through local uptake of “i-Tree” tools.

This project aims to critically examine urban forest sampling protocols with a view to optimising i-Tree Eco surveying. By clarifying the surveying effort required and maximising output accuracy the project aims to increase the opportunity for cities to gain the inventory data required for evidence-based policy creation, and development of management strategies that maximise delivery of tree benefits to urban society.

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Improving outcomes in montane woodland restoration

Carried out by: University of Stirling

Habitat restoration involving woody species is critical for halting and reversing biodiversity loss and mitigating climate change impacts. However forests are complex ecological systems and present major challenges for successful restoration sustainable management. Innovative conservation practices are needed to achieve effective restoration across upland landscapes and reduce risks of habitat fragmentation in the face of changes in climate and grazing regimes in Britain post-2020.

This research will investigate how exploiting microsite factors, mycorrhizal associations and natural regeneration potential can be used to improve the outcomes of montane scrub restoration projects in Britain. It intends to aid the development of conservation management techniques which will create healthy and sustainable upland tree populations, thereby facilitating the long-term resilience of this biodiverse habitat and the expansion of the treeline ecotone.


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Highlighted Projects