Oxford Long-Term Ecology Lab

Long-Term Ecology, Biodiversity Conservation, and Environmental Stewardship Technologies

The Oxford Long-term Ecology lab collaborated on the report published on December 18th, which demonstrates that private land owners hold the balance of power in meeting the challenges of environmental change to the UK’s forests and woodlands. Woodland managers will need courage to take informed risks and make bold decisions to ensure our woodlands can thrive in the future. Nine out of ten woodland managers have experienced environmental change in recent years, yet less than half believe the UK’s forests will be affected in future.
Woodlands cover 13% of the UK’s land area and almost three quarters (2,283,000 ha)1 are in private ownership, yet little was known about the awareness of woodland owners and managers, and forestry professionals, concerning adaptation to environmental change. Many key questions had never been asked, meaning that accordance with the guidelines of the United Kingdom Forestry Standard (UKFS) has been difficult to measure, both in terms of current actions and future aspirations.

Earlier in 2015 a group of ten leading forestry and woodland organisations collaborated to run a national survey to address these questions; exploring awareness, action and aspiration relating to environmental change among private woodland owners and managers, and forestry professionals. The research was funded by Forestry Commission England, Sylva Foundation, University of Oxford and the Woodland Trust.

Headline findings of the survey are:

  • 1. 1509 woodland owners, managers, professional foresters and tree nursery businesses responded to the survey, representing 11% of all privately-owned woodlands in the UK.
  • 2. 9/10 respondents had experienced an impact from environmental change in recent years, ranging from an outbreak of disease or pests, fire or flooding, to extreme wind events.
  • 3. Overall a small majority (52%) of respondents thought that climate change would impact the UK’s forests in future, though 34% were uncertain. Among specific groups, professional foresters were more convinced (70%) that climate change would impact the UK’s forests than woodland owners (45%).
  • 4. Most woodland owners were positive about the future for their woodland, although ash dieback featured strongly as a major issue of concern.
  • 5. A minority of woodland owners are taking adequate steps to minimise risks from pests and pathogens by implementing best practice guidelines for biosecurity.


Writing in the Foreword, Chairman of the Forestry Commission, Sir Harry Studholme, commented:
“For the first time, we have on record the ‘voice’ of more than one and a half thousand woodland owners and managers. This is critical as, if we want to make real change on the ground, this will have to be done by landowners and managers themselves. The results tell us that there is much work to do, with little progress seen on implementing adaptation to date. It is, however, pleasing to see that thought is being given to climate change and resilience.”

Results from the survey will be used by the collaborating group of organisations to develop an Action Plan. Earlier in 2015, the same organisations agreed to work together, and more widely, to prepare for environmental change by signing a Climate Change Accord.

The report is available free to download here
Report citation: Hemery, G., Petrokofsky, G., Ambrose-Oji, B., Atkinson, G., Broadmeadow, M., Edwards, D., Harrison, C., Lloyd, S., Mumford, J., O’Brien, L., Reid, C., Seville, M., Townsend, M., Weir, J., and Yeomans, A., (2015). Awareness, action and aspiration among Britain’s forestry community relating to environmental change: Report of the British Woodlands Survey 2015. www.sylva.org.uk/forestryhorizons/bws2015
Partners: The 2015 survey was supported by an Advisory Group comprising representatives of Climate Ready, Confor, Country Land & Business Association, Forestry Commission England, Forest Research, Natural England, Royal Forestry Society, Sylva Foundation, University of Oxford, and Woodland Trust.

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