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£10.5 million of new research to investigate role of trees in tackling climate change

The University of Gloucestershire and Imperial College London are coordinating new research announced by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) exploring ways in which trees, woods and forest can help address climate change.

Six large scale research projects have been commissioned by the government-funded UKRI in the first tranche of projects to go ahead under the Future of UK Treescapes Programme.

Students Looking over View from Symonds Yat

Dr Julie Urquhart from the University of Gloucestershire and Prof Clive Potter from Imperial College London, who have been appointed Treescapes Programme Ambassadors, believe the research could make a significant contribution to expanding the UK’s treescapes to meet climate goals and reverse decades of biodiversity decline in the countryside.

The Treescapes projects will help to inform decisions about how to expand tree cover, with the upcoming COP26 climate negotiations taking place in Glasgow in November and the UK Government’s commitment to plant 1.5 billion trees by 2050 as part of its target to achieve net zero.

With the involvement of 13 universities and research institutes and more than 40 non-academic partners, the first round of funded projects brings together teams of natural and social scientists, together with arts and humanities researchers.

They will investige both the natural and human dimensions of woodland expansion and resilience, employing state-of-the-art research to examine how best to establish, expand and protect UK treescapes.

Prof Potter said: “The need to expand and better safeguard our treescapes has never been clearer.

“This first set of projects will break new ground in exploring how the vast range of different treescapes in this country function and what needs to be done to have more of them in places and at scales that can truly benefit the natural environment and society as a whole.

“Each of the funded projects is distinct, both in terms of the focus of the work that will be done and in the combinations of disciplines that have been brought together.

“I am particularly excited by the potential they have to combine the sciences with the social sciences and the arts in new ways in order to bring a fresh perspective on this important topic.

“I am looking forward to working with the project teams to bring the research to the attention of policymakers, stakeholders and the wider public.”

Students Cycling through Trees

A second research call will be announced in the autumn, with the aim of commissioning a further set of projects. Dr Urquhart, from the Countryside and Community Research Institute at the University of Gloucestershire, said: “We expect projects under the second call to be designed and delivered in collaboration with stakeholders, and to complement our first six funded projects.

“They are likely to involve action-focused research that delivers evidence to enable government, land managers and civil society to achieve appropriate treescape expansion to meet net zero targets, nature recovery goals and societal benefits.”

The Ambassadors are launching an online collaborator finder tool on the Treescapes website to help researchers and stakeholders interested in developing a proposal for the second call to find and contact potential partners.

The six Treescapes projects are: