I am proud to have supported an important research exercise which set out to horizon scan for issues that are likely to affect forest management in the UK within the next 50 years. The results of this work are published today.
A well-used method was adopted to conduct the horizon-scanning exercise conducted by a diverse Expert Panel that I joined earlier this year. We collated and prioritised a long-list of 180 issues to arrive at a final list of 15 priority issues. I am one of the co-authors of a scientific paper published today in the International Journal of Forest Research which presents the findings.
The Fifteen Issues
The final 15 issues arose from a process which removed duplicates and collated issues into themes, and these were then ranked. The final list should not be considered a ranked list (i.e. that 10 is more significant than 11), however, Issue 1 – Catastrophic forest ecosystem collapse was the most highly ranked issue, with 64% of the Expert Panel ranking it as their top issue and 88% ranking it within their top three.
- Catastrophic forest ecosystem collapse
- Increased drought and flooding change the social costs and benefits of trees
- Forest management becomes more challenging due to changing seasonal working windows
- Protecting and enhancing soil microbial ecology becomes a higher priority
- Viruses and viroids emerge as pathogens of increasing importance for trees
- eDNA revolutionizes our understanding of forest ecosystems
- Trees are at the heart of future urban planning
- The Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) drives transparency and investment in nature-positive management
- Natural capital funding streams are greatly upscaled
- New technologies facilitate widespread adoption of smart silviculture
- New technologies improve worker health and safety
- New wood product markets stimulate more active forest management
- UK commercial forest resources may not match future value chains
- Unpredictable supply and demand dynamics in global wood product markets
- International commitments will spotlight ecosystem integrity and drive monitoring efforts
The research paper has already attracted widespread media interest, including this article in The Guardian.
It will be interesting to observe how it influences policy development in future, both within government and by other actors in the forestry sector.
Tew, Eleanor R, Bianca Ambrose-Oji, Malcolm Beatty, Ulf Büntgen, Holly Butterworth, Gerard Clover, Dan Cook, et al. 2023. “A Horizon Scan of Issues Affecting UK Forest Management within 50 Years.” Forestry: An International Journal of Forest Research.
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