Projects in Progress

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

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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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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Developing an Industry Contribution Mechanism

Carried out by: Confor

A number of current and emerging issues, such as the declining availability of funding for research, the fracturing of the Forestry Commission, reliance on public sector funding which does not always lead to commercially quantifiable outcomes, and a move by government to a ‘Responsibility and Cost Sharing’ model for the setting of priorities and funding of projects of joint interest, provide both a driver and an opportunity for the creation of an Industry Contribution Mechanism.

The purpose of the Fund would be to raise funds to support industry research and promotion, market information and skills development. The industry has a record of supporting these activities but on an ad hoc basis, which makes long term planning and strategic development problematic.

This project will build on initial scoping work undertaken by the applicant. It will provide options for the raising, administration and distribution of funds, consult with industry and potential recipients on the implications of these options, and make recommendations as to the optimum outcome.

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Forestry Memories website upgrade and reformat

Carried out by: Royal Scottish Forestry Society

The Forestry Memories website was formed in 2006 as part of the very successful Touchwood Project. The simple format of the website provided a forum for individuals and organisations to donate Scottish forestry photograph or video images for display on the site with a feature for online visitors to comment on the images and text. A simple upgrade about eight years later improved its functionality but the increasingly technical sophistication of the internet, the meteoric rise of smart phone and tablet systems has outstripped the current website’s easy compatibility.

This project will support a further upgrade to the website so that the site becomes fully compatible with mobile devices and has an improved look and feel.

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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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Digital Quarterly Journal of Forestry: Early Years

Carried out by: Royal Forestry Society

The RFS are creating a free-to-access digital record that charts the history of Forestry in England during World War I and in the challenging period immediately following the war. The record will be created by scanning and collating volumes of the RFS ‘Quarterly Journal of Forestry’ dating from 1914 to 1920.

These volumes document the solutions that people within the forestry sector employed to solve many of the economic, environmental and sustainability problems that arose during this challenging time. This will then be uploaded to the RFS website, were it would provide a searchable, free to access historic record that is not available elsewhere.

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Dormouse connectivity for forest resilience

Carried out by: Manchester Metropolitain University

The configuration of forested landscapes in the UK does not provide coherent and resilient ecosystems to allow species to avoid the negative effects of fragmentation and habitat degradation. However, there is little evidence of what form and extent of connectivity would benefit forest species. We propose the use of a key forest bioindicator, the Hazel dormouse (Muscardinus avellanarius), to help quantify current landscape connectivity and predict future management options that will increase forest resilience.

The project will 1) quantify habitat requirements of dormice within forested landscape mosaics, 2) examine movement behaviour of dormice at habitat edges and in degraded habitat and 3) model landscape utilisation and network connectivity based on forest and target species biological and physical characteristics

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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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The multi-trophic consequences of ash dieback – a baseline survey of Wytham Woods

Carried out by: University of Oxford

European ash has become the latest victim to the fungal pathogen (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus) responsible for ash dieback. Ash is the third most abundant broadleaved tree species in British woodlands and the disease is therefore expected to have a major impact on woodland ecosystems.

Ash dieback has recently been detected in Wytham Woods, Oxford’s iconic ecological observatory where many of the foundations of modern ecology were laid. Thanks to years of research across many areas of ecology, Wytham is probably the only place in the world that is positioned to track the full ecological consequences of the disease.

In this study we aim to gather baseline data in low and high ash areas of Wytham Woods before the impacts of the disease become prominent. These data will be used to apply for funds to track changes due to ash dieback which may be used to inform woodland management in the UK.

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Assessing the risk of chemical runoff following use of Gazelle SG as a pre-treatment and top-up spray in forestry.

Carried out by: Forest Research

Despite significant and continuing progress in the development of non-chemical methods for controlling the large pine weevil (Hylobius abietis) in restocking situations, on some sites there still remains a need for insecticide treatment to prevent catastrophic damage to replanted trees. Acetamiprid is increasingly being used in UK forestry as the primary insecticide treatment for protecting young trees from damage by Hylobius abietis, because it is more than 400 times less toxic to the aquatic environment and to bees than the insecticides it replaces.

However, whilst the additional evidence based precautionary measures that are routinely employed for all insecticide treatments in forestry are considered to be more than sufficient to fully protect the freshwater environment from any contamination, up until now the use of acetamiprid on restock sites has not been specifically monitored.

This project therefore consists of a monitoring study to confirm that there is no runoff of acetamiprid to water following the use of Gazelle SG® (20% w/w acetamiprid) as a pre-treatment and top-spray in forestry. If runoff were to be detected, a further objective of this study would be to recommend changes to forestry practice to minimise risk.

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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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Improving the understanding and management of Phoenix Trees

Carried out by: Dr Rick Worrell/Falkland Stewardship Trust

Mature broadleaved trees in Scotland’s windy climate blow over, but a proportion re-root and continue to grow. These become interesting, ecologically important and attractive trees; with considerable appeal to the public. This phenomenon is rarely fully appreciated by woodland managers and phoenix trees are at risk from firewood cutting, browsing and being swamped by bracken. The process may constitute an adaptive response that helps some types of native woodland persist in Scotland’s windy climate and in the face of huge grazing pressure. The objectives of the work are firstly to describe the phenomenon and to evaluate its ecological importance, so as we understand it adequately. This will include carrying out a survey of phoenix trees, recording their distribution, species, sizes, ages, morphological characteristics, the ecology of sites and associated epiphytic species. The second is to raise awareness primarily among professionals (but also more widely), and to encourage better management practices. The outputs will be management guidelines advising on evaluation and protection of trees and a popular article drawing attention to the ecological importance of the phenomenon.

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The Ecology and Genetics of Native Scottish Crab Apple

Carried out by: Dr Rick Worrell/Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh/Falkland Stewardship Trust

Crab apple (Malus sylvestris) is probably Scotland’s least researched and understood native tree species, and this project sets out to remedy this by providing ecological, genetic and management information. It is a rare but ecologically valuable species that is currently undervalued in forestry. Importantly, the species is known elsewhere in Europe to be at risk from hybridisation with domestic apples – rather like the situation with Scottish wildcat. The objectives of the work are to: a) Carry out an inventory of wild-grown apple trees, recording their morphology and the ecology of the sites and woods they occur in; b) Have an RBGE student investigate the problem of hybridisation and describe genetic variation using micro-satellite markers; and c) Make a collection of scion material from trees which the genetic analysis shows to be true crab apples and establish one or more clonal seed stands. The outputs will be management guidelines, with advice on planting, seed collection and genetic conservation.

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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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Mapping and Repositioning Forestry Skills for the 21st Century

Carried out by: University of the Highlands and Islands & The University of Aberdeen

The multifunctional role of forestry and the diverse activities which it encompasses, operating across different fields, boundaries and activities is widely recognised as being of central importance to its development in the 21st Century. This project aims to address key issues related to educating and training future generations of forest professionals to address 21st Century needs in the UK, drawing on interdisciplinary (Sociology/ Social Sciences and Education) perspectives and methodological approaches. Based on a phased approach involving two PhD students, the first PhD will seek to explore the ways in which conceptual and theoretical frameworks such as multi- functionality and / or ecosystem services might be combined with a ‘Systems’ approach to enhance understanding of the educational and skills requirements of forestry in the 21st Century. Drawing on the findings of the first phase, the second PhD will seek to develop an understanding of the future aspirations and the key factors influencing career choices among young people in relation to forestry. The Project will make an important contribution to addressing the lack of theorising which currently characterises the evidence on training and education, in forestry as well as other sectors grappling with similar challenges and drivers of change (e.g. agriculture, rural development and so on). The project is a collaboration between the University of the Highlands and Islands- Inverness College and the University of Aberdeen.

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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