Projects in Progress

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

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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Developing a Research and Development Prospectus

Carried out by: Confor

Building on recent work, the aim of this support is to help facilitate two industry meetings in Spring 2020 to discuss and prioritise Forest Industry Research and Development needs that may, in future be supported through any industry led fund.  The events will be in Scotland and England and will completed by May 2020.

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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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Untapped Provenances of Sitka spruce

Carried out by: Forest Research

This project will focus on providing information on Sitka spruce by directly measuring relevant traits on a mature forest trial of 25 Pacific Northwest origins of Sitka spruce growing in northern Scotland. These traits are: growth, wood stiffness, wood density and tree ring characteristics related to drought vulnerability. A rapid, preliminary study at the project site in 2019 has indicated that important differences could exist and more reliable time series measurements are now sought with this proposal. The variation within and between seed origins will be compared for the measured traits and the findings used to inform planting strategies and to guide the future breeding of Sitka spruce in the UK.

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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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Alternative techniques for managing Hylobius abietis

Carried out by: Forest Research

The large pine weevil (Hylobius abietis) is the most serious pest of newly planted or naturally regenerating woodland trees on restocking sites in Scotland and the rest of the UK and Ireland.

The need to find alternatives to the use of existing insecticides or a fallow strategy have led to a 10 year, collaborative research effort across the UK forest industry involving Forest Research, UPM Tilhill, Maelor Nurseries, Forest Enterprise England, Forest Enterprise Scotland, Natural Resources Wales, the Northern Ireland Forest Service, Coiltte, Confor, Scottish Woodlands, and Swansea University, along with a range of other important stakeholders.

This research investigated a range of innovative techniques for the integrated management of Hylobius abietis.












The objective of this Scottish Forestry Trust project is to produce a number of open access, independently peer reviewed scientific papers to report on this research, and to provide an evidence base for decision makers in the sector considering options for managing Hylobius abietis, and for stakeholders interested in the rationale for current forest practices.

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MySafety App: mobile technology applied to improve Forest Safety

Carried out by: Invigilatis Ltd

Safety culture is the product of individual and group values, attitudes, perceptions, competencies and patterns of behaviour that determine the commitment to an organisation’s safety management. Therefore, as a result of assembling more comprehensive data in real-time data, the project will drive a fundamental advance in the industry’s safety culture, so improving safety practices and training which, in turn, will reduce the numbers of incidents and fatalities.

The key objective of the project is to replace ineffective, out-dated, paper-based processes by deploying low-cost, smart technology to operators in the forestry industry so that they can record incidents more easily, be assured of their personal safety and respond to periodic questionnaires which will provide the industry with its first ever holistic assessment of its safety culture.

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Support for attendance of early career scientists at IUFRO 2019 World Congress

Carried out by: Forest Research

The objectives of this proposal are to facilitate the attendance of some talented UK scientists and in doing so to: -

Provide opportunities for early career FR staff to engage with the international research community at the IUFRO World Congress in 2019 to gain new knowledge, lay the foundation for new collaborations, and promote the work being undertaken in UK and

- Provide the UK forestry sector with insights from the premier global forestry research conference.

The conference is to be held from the 29th September 2019 and a report and trade articles will be produced from the visit.

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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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Assessing the value of secondary woodlands for biodiversity

Carried out by: University of Stirling

Woodland creation and restoration are often assumed to benefit biodiversity. However, slow habitat succession rates and time lags in species responses have resulted in a lack of empirical studies assessing the long-term value of these activities. The work proposed will use ancient semi-natural woodlands (250+ years old; usually regarded as high quality habitats for many taxa), as reference sites to assess how secondary woodlands planted over the last century are performing in terms of their value for biodiversity, using moths (a biologically-diverse group and indicator for forest quality and wider biodiversity) as a case study. Key differences in habitat structure will be identified between ancient and secondary woodlands and explore how these relate to woodland moth communities. These findings will provide scientific evidence to inform conservation actions and policy aimed at increasing the value of secondary woodlands for biodiversity.

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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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Epidemiology of Phytophthora ramorum on Larix spp. and host responses to infection

Carried out by: Forest Research/Oxford University

Forest ecosystems in Britain are highly vulnerable to invasive Phytophthora spp., including Phytophthora ramorum, which is causing severe economic losses to larch across the west of the country. This PhD project aims to investigate natural resistance in larch to P. ramorum by studying disease epidemiology and variations in host response. This will enable a greater understanding of the potential to exploit natural resistance/tolerance to P. ramorum in a larch breeding programme.

The specific project objectives are; i) investigate the epidemiology of P. ramorum on larch in SW Scotland, ii) determine whether differences in susceptibility occur between European larch (EL) and Japanese larch (JL) to EU1 and EU2 lineages of P. ramorum, and iii) examine the molecular interactions between P. ramorum and JL and EL in order to identify key host immune responses. 

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Ownership effect on benefits from woodland expansion

Carried out by: Forest Research/University of Edinburgh

Despite afforestation over the last 100 years, woodland cover in Scotland remains low in both a historical and European context. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment provided evidence that over 60% of ecosystem services (ES) are currently being degraded/used unsustainably (MEA, 2005), and biodiversity loss continues, with over 18% of species and 33% of habitats thought to have been lost in Scotland  (Hughes and Brookes, 2009). In addition, the challenge of climate change means that species are struggling to adapt, and there is increasing need for mitigation through carbon sequestration, with afforestation being seen as an important way to achieve this. At the same time, there is increasing debate over land reform in Scotland and the implementation of the Scottish Land Use Strategy which aims for responsible stewardship of Scotland’s natural resources to deliver more benefits to Scotland’s people (Scottish Government, 2011).

These challenges present an opportunity to evaluate the impact of previous woodland expansion on ES (Thomas et al. 2015), by assessing how ES vary in different contexts and what trade-offs exist between woodland and other land uses. The recent growth and improvement in methods to quantify ES (ES indicators) means that there is an excellent opportunity to make use of new tools for ES evaluation which have not been used before.

The following research questions will be addressed in the course of this four year PhD:

  1. What has been the impact of woodland expansion on ES to date?
  2. How do key woodland ES vary under different ownership and governance types?
  3. What types of ownership and governance are most effective for achieving woodland expansion and provision of ES?
  4. What are the synergies and trade-offs between woodland ES and ES from other land uses?
  5. What are the most sustainable and resilient models of ownership and governance for achieving woodland expansion and provision of ES given alternative climate change and socio-economic scenarios?

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Who Will Pay for Urban Forest Climate Regulation Services?

Carried out by: Southampton University/Forest Research

This PhD research project is a collaborative undertaking between the University of Southampton and Forest Research to analyse the extent to which Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) schemes can promote investment in urban woodlands as a means of minimizing the impacts of climate change in
built‐up areas.

Specific research questions are:
(1) Who is best suited to provide urban woodland ecosystem services?
(2) What is the magnitude of willingness-to-pay (WTP) for these services?
(3) How do time, uncertainty and knowledge affect WTP and thus PES design?
(4) Would a voluntary or institutional PES be more appropriate?

Methods will include a literature review, GIS mapping to identify three case studies, choice experiments with a range of experts and multi-criteria analysis.

Outputs will include the PhD, three journal papers and at least two conference presentations.

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Multi-taxa functional diversity in UK plantation forests

Carried out by: Edge Hill University; Forest Research

This project will determine functional diversity in UK plantation forests. The objectives are to (i) determine changes in species and functional diversity of three taxonomic groups (ground dwelling beetles, ground vegetation, birds) in a chronosequence over a 20 year period; (ii) assess resilience of these taxa to harvesting disturbances across bioclimatic zones and forest types, and, (iii) to determine how spider species and functional diversity are influenced by bioclimatic zone and plantation forest type across the chronosequence. Expected outcomes include long-term (20 years) and large scale (two bioclimatic zones) assessments of taxonomic and functional diversity in plantation forests using a multi-taxon approach. 

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Can ecological restoration help build sustainable communities?

Carried out by: Cardiff University

The PhD will study the implementation of integrated socio-ecological restoration initiatives at community level to deepen understanding of how ecosystem-human relations can contribute to community engagement processes and the building of sustainable communities. It will focus on a particular type of ecological initiative - ecological restoration (ER) - to study the ways in which ER projects have been implemented at community level in Britain. Although playing an increasingly important role in public policy responses to environmental change (including maintenance of ecosystem services and promotion of ecological resilience), ER has not been subject to in-depth social science analysis. 

Specific Research Objectives include:

• Create a better understanding of the role and function of ER as a tool for promoting community engagement and sustainability, and gain insight into the social acceptability of ER.
• Understand the conditions for achieving successful community participation in ER, looking in particular at how they involve place specific issues and attachment processes.
• Develop a critical awareness of the governance conditions surrounding ER (such as participation and regulation) for building community adaptation to environmental change and community resilience.
• Demonstrate the value of multi-method research involving in depth qualitative longitudinal case studies for studying dynamic participatory processes and social surveys for measuring the effectiveness of ER interventions.

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Highlighted Projects