Projects in Progress

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

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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Woodland to Workshop Course - Scotland 2021

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

This 3 day training course brings together young forestry professionals from across the homegrown hardwood (and premium softwood) industry (foresters, sawmillers, woodworkers, etc.) to learn about all aspects pf the industry, and to build links with other professionals, incresaing links, mutual understanding, trade and collaboration across the sector to its benefit. This is the firts Woodland to Workshop course to be held in Scotland and the first to be organised by ASHS. The course has been run successfully in England on 26 occasions by Woodland Heritage. Initially planned for delivery in 2020, the course will take place in October 2021.

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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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Wild Service (Sorbus torminalis) Provenance Trial

Carried out by: Woodland Heritage

The trial objective is to test different provenances of S.torminalis for survival, growth and stem quality in order to provide recommendations for silvicultural practice. Scottish Forestry Trust’s support for the trial will enable the creation of a survey protocol that will then guide measurements and monitoring to be carried out at regular intervals during the first phase of this project, with survival and early growth analysed after one, two and three years. By the end of the first phase, there will be clear outcomes emerging as to the best performing provenances out of nine selected from the UK and Europe. These results will be disseminated to industry bodies and publications directly and online for wider consumption, representing the only provenance trial for Wild Service Tree ever to have been undertaken in Britain, which will help raise the profile and potential of this under-used but potentially remunerative hardwood.

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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 a PhD 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

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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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Future proofing British conifer forestry in response to Phytophthora ramorum

Carried out by: Forest Research

Phytophthora ramorum is the cause of major loss of Japanese larch throughout western Britain and there are now concerns that Sitka spruce may be at increased risk as the epidemic progresses.

This PhD study aims to analyse the extent of the threat to Sitka spruce by exploring what factors might increase its vulnerability to P. ramorum, refine our understanding of the environmental factors that promote or prevent disease development on larch and spruce in relation to inoculum pressure and climate, and draw from this information an assessment of whether European larch could be a viable species choice in future.

Additionally, the project will track the distribution of the relatively recently arrived EU2 lineage of P. ramorum in south west Scotland and explore its potential for change.

The overall objective is to provide data and evidence to update future management recommendations and species choice decision-making against a continuing risk from P. ramorum.

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Monitoring and managing genetic diversity in Sitka spruce

Carried out by: Forest Research/Edinburgh University

This study will quantify baseline levels and changes in genetic diversity during the course of the UK's Sitka spruce genetic improvement programme.  Using microsatellite markers, the study will first determine the quantitative measures of genetic diversity in native QCI populations and unimproved commercial stands of Sitka spruce in the UK to estimate any reduction in genetic diversity that occured in the introduction process.

The project will then go on to measure how this introduced genetic diversityhas changed as a consequence of the different tree improvement strategies, either seed orchards or vegetative propogation, employed to produce stock.

The study will provide important information to help guide the future development of the Sitka spruce improvement programme.

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Predicting impacts of extreme weather events in UK forests

Carried out by: Stirling University

This research will integrate new and existing tree-ring data on Picea and Pinus species to deliver a predictive understanding of the change in tree risk, resistance, recovery and resilience to drought, in the dominant commercial conifer species in the UK. Industry outputs will include dissemination via forest industry forums, maps, and probabilistic risk and vulnerability functions which will be integrated into the decision support systems (including the online Forest Research DSS system) available and widely used by UK forest managers. Academic outputs will include scientific articles and conference presentations.

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Studying a mycovirus from Dothistroma septosporum

Carried out by: Imperial College London

Further to recent research supported by the SFT, the research team at Imperial College have identified  a D. septosporum isolate harbouring a double-stranded (ds) RNA mycovirus belonging to the family Chrysoviridae. The aims of this research are (1) to provide insight into the effects of the virus on host growth and virulence, and therefore its potential as a biological control agent against Dothistroma needle blight (DNB), and (2) to understand the molecular mechanisms underpinning these effects by investigating the transcriptional and small RNA profile of the D. septosporum isolate in the presence of the virus. Ideally by the completion of the project it should be possible to link fungal growth and virulence phenotypes with specific groups of genes up- or down-regulated in virus-free and virus-infected isolates and propose a RNA silencing based mechanism to explain this differential expression. The research is expected to take up to 2 years.

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Improving Biodiversity in Lowland Planted Woodlands

Carried out by: Falkland Stewardship Trust/Dr Rick Worrell

Woodlands planted on arable land and improved pasture fail to develop woodland plant communities and remain dominated by grass and agricultural weeds; even in old woods. This severely limits their biodiversity value, including impacts on some invertebrate populations; and reduces the amenity and recreational appeal of the woods.

This can be addressed via careful introductions of missing woodland plant species aimed at simply establishing small viable populations that can colonise the wood over time. There are a few trials of woodland plant introductions in Scotland and England; but none have used this approach and are suitable for long term monitoring and research.

Research Objectives:

a) Establish long term demonstration sites to test the feasibility of introductions, provide evidence of outcomes, refine methodology and seek cost-effective approaches.

b) Arrange training events focused on good conservation management of lowland planted woods.


1) a paper(s) describing improved management practices;

2) enhanced understanding and professional capacity amongst managers;

3) a long term research resource;

4) a student dissertation.

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Mapping impacts of Phytophthora austrocedri in juniper

Carried out by: Centre for Ecology and Hydrology/Forest Research/University of Cambridge

A key component of resilience of forest ecosystems to pathogens is understanding environmental and ecological processes that favour establishment and spread for effective targeting of mitigation methods.

Such conditions are poorly described for new oomycete Phytophthora pathogens that are damaging forest ecosystems in Britain.

Phytophthora austrocedri is now known to be causing extensive dieback of Juniper, a declining UK Biodiversity Action Plan priority species, in Scotland and northern England.

This project aims to (1) determine how topography, climate, hydrology and host community structure interact to favour disease establishment and spread from field scale to landscape and regional scales (2) understand how conditions favouring juniper population persistence interfaces with conditions favouring disease establishment and (3) develop spatial tools that map P. austrocedri impact on juniper populations for geographical targeting of conservation and biosecurity measures.

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Development and Publication of Tree Work Guides

Carried out by: Arboricultural Association

This project creates a suite of supporting technical guides which will provide detailed, practical guidance for arboricultural operatives. Building on the recent development of the Industry Code of Practice for Arboriculture, the guides will describe "industry good practice" and will support training programmes and provide the benchmark standards for a range of practical arboricultural operations.

The guides will be designed to be accessible to operators with high quality photographs and illustrations and will be available during 2018.

The guides will cover

- Tree Access

- Use of Tools in the Tree

- Rigging

- Use of Cranes in Arb

- Use of MEWP's in Arb

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Highlighted Projects