The Independent Panel on Forestry sponsored Forest Research to host a workshop, held on 9 November 2011, to identify the strengths and opportunities of the current research programmes and make recommendations for future research priorities for forestry in England. The workshop was attended by a range of participants from the research, policy and practitioner communities. A record of the workshop has been released and a summary is provided here together with a link to the full report.
The strengths and opportunities of the current research programmes.
A background paper and two presentations gave an overview of the research which supports forestry in England. Discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of the current research programmes raised the following issues:-
- Serious concerns over the ongoing declining spend on forestry research during the current Spending Review period (2010/11 to 2014/15).
- The need for good partnership working and responsiveness in research programmes and between research funders.
- The extent to which research provision was co-ordinated and that the research community was making a strong enough case for future funding.
- The need for effective knowledge exchange between the forestry sector and research providers.
- The need to tackle current pest and pathogen outbreaks; the new Defra and FC Joint Action Plan on Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity was welcomed.
The workshop did not address the organisational arrangements for delivery of forest research in England, but the sector expressed strong support for Forest Research (FR) which is considered to be making a unique and valuable contribution in support of UK forestry.
Future research priorities
Presentations, breakout groups and participant voting were used to identify short to medium and long-term research priorities. Four overall priorities for research and knowledge exchange emerged as being important now and in the future:
- Valuation of and payment for ecosystem services and evidence in support of woodland creation for mitigation of climate change.
- Research on tree pests and diseases, including invasive species (grey squirrels, deer, wild boar, etc).
- Selection, breeding and silviculture for resilience to climate change and pests and pathogens.
- Understanding the motivations and needs of woodland owners and of those who might create woodlands.
Thirty specific research questions were identified and of these the five considered to be priorities by the workshop participants were (verbatim):
1. What do we need to do to improve woodland resilience in the face of pests and pathogens?
2. How to improve the understanding of the special issues of urban trees (importance of pests, climate, species, liability concerns)?
3. Selection, breeding and silviculture for resilience to climate change and pests and diseases.
4. How do you get the complete value of a woodland – all its goods and benefits – into the owners’ pocket?
5. What are the barriers to land-use change – farm and other land to trees, woods and forests?
The following themes also emerged: the importance of knowledge exchange (dissemination), the need to use existing knowledge and monitoring, the need for information on the quantity and quality of the existing forest resource and importance of access to woodlands. The value of well-managed woodlands in mitigation of climate change is now widely accepted and this underpins the emphasis on woodland creation, on provenance and species selection and on management for climate resilience.