Healthy and resilient woodlands supported through new £16 million government funding, it has been announced at the end of November.

UK research into climate and pest resilient woodlands is set to boosted with the announcement of £16 million government funding for our world-leading forest scientists.

Trees are facing unprecedented challenges from the impacts of climate change to an increased risk of tree disease and pests – including ips beetles, Dutch elm disease and ash dieback. These kinds of diseases threaten valuable habitats for thousands of species of wildlife.

This funding will support vital research into ways to mitigate and prevent these impacts, helping to protect woodlands and plant more trees in the long term.

It comes ahead of Environment Secretary Steve Barclay setting out plans to improve access to green space, including a competition for a new National Forest and the unveiling of two new Community Forests – in Derbyshire and the Tees.

The Forest Research programme will back 30 projects, working with 27 partner organisations. It will also support efforts to increase England’s tree canopy – one of the government’s key environment targets.

Projects benefiting from the funding include:

  • Studying the complex networks of soil nutrients and plant roots to see how they help boost woodlands.
  • Work to better understand how tree seeds can fall naturally and plant themselves
  • Developing our understanding of how drought is impacting tree growth
  • Examining the barriers to agroforestry, where trees and agricultural crops grow on the same piece of land

Forestry Minister Rebecca Pow said:

Not only do we need to plant trees, for tomorrow, we also need to support their long-term protection from the host of threats they face due a changing climate.  

Today we are investing a further £16 million in vital research to help support the resilience of our trees and woodland as part of our ambitious plans to increase tree planting across the country.

Professor James Pendlebury, Chief Executive, Forest Research said:

This is a significant and welcome investment in the forest science and evidence needed to underpin the creation of resilient woodlands and their future management and protection. It is also a huge investment in the next generation of forest scientists who will support the development of forests and woodlands fit for the future.

Forestry Commission Chair, Sir William Worsley, said:

Trees can only help mitigate the impact of a changing climate if they are resilient to those challenges themselves.

Forest Research will be vital to supporting tree planting activity through building the evidence base to inform and improve our management of trees and selection of resilient species for the future to increase woodland cover for future generations.

The Forest Research Trees and Forestry evidence programme will leave a lasting legacy, by providing strong scientific evidence to underpin our future forestry policy and support long term action for expanding and managing treescapes.

The England Trees Action Plan and Environmental Improvement Plan set out ambitious targets to treble tree planting rates by the end of this Parliament and to achieve at least 16.5% of tree and woodland cover by 2050. The announcement supports the delivery of this ambitious programme and make sure the UK is using cutting edge science to make decisions.

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