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York to investigate the value rooted in UK treescapes

Posted on 7 August 2021

Researchers from the University of York are taking part in three projects totalling £6m which aim to improve our understanding of the functions and services provided by treescapes.

treesExpanding the UK’s trees, woodlands and forests will play an important role in realising the Government’s ambition to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

The UK’s woodlands, forests, urban trees and hedgerows have a key role to play in carbon reduction, biodiversity and nature recovery as well as the need to enhance health and wellbeing and provide a source of cultural inspiration.

The three projects will look at the value and resilience of the UK’s treescapes and provide essential models, tools and datasets to help inform future decision-making around their expansion.


Funded via the UK Research and Innovation ‘Future of UK Treescapes’ programme, the first project called ‘Connected Treescapes’ will evaluate how treescapes affect the key public benefits of biodiversity and nature recovery, mental health and wellbeing, and cultural and heritage value.

The project - led by the University of York - aims to inform future treescape management decisions, providing advice on where to enhance, restore and plant new trees to increase public benefits.

Project co-lead Professor Piran White from the Department of Environment and Geography, said: “This project is really important as it will address the role of landscape-level partnerships in delivering benefits from treescapes.

“It will help show how UK treescape management decisions are being defined and constrained by past land use and ownership and will demonstrate how collaboration and decision making around treescapes can be influenced by policy and regulation.”

The project is in partnership with Forest Research, Newcastle University, the University of Strathclyde and the York Environmental Sustainability Institute.


The second project called ‘NewLEAF’ will evaluate options for using the natural genetic variation within tree species to keep pace with expected changes in climate as well as with pests and diseases.

The project - led by the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology in partnership with the University of York, and Biomathematics and Statistics Scotland, among others -  aims to produce new research, guidance and policy recommendations that will improve the resilience of treescapes.

Dr Julia Touza, from the Department of Environment and Geography said: “The project takes an interdisciplinary approach to answering how quickly trees can genetically adapt to change and whether or not human intervention is needed to accelerate adaptation, and if so, how.”

Urban treescapes

The final project called ‘Branching out’ aims to develop new ways of mapping, predicting, and communicating the social and cultural values of trees so local authorities can make robust, evidence-based decisions around urban treescapes.

The project - led by Loughborough University in partnership with the University of York, Stockholm Environment Institute at York, the Open University and Forest Research will evaluate the social and cultural values of urban trees in York, Cardiff, and Milton Keynes.

Researchers will develop detailed maps of social and cultural value in the three cities’ urban treescapes using methods which include historic mapping and citizen science.

Co-lead Dr Debbie Maxwell from the Department of Theatre, Film, Television and Interactive Media said: “This research brings together a wide range of disciplines including environmental and social sciences, the arts and humanities and urban planning and design. It’s a great opportunity to bring together knowledge to develop new and exciting ways to support our treescapes.”

Expanding the UK’s trees, woodlands and forests will play an important role in realising the Government’s ambition to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. In the approach to the COP26 climate summit in November, the evidence, tools and approaches developed by researchers will help policymakers and land managers make informed decisions to help reach this target.


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About this research

To find out more about the project please visit the UKRI website.

Partners on the ‘Connected Treescapes’ include: Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, University of Strathclyde, Forest Research, Newcastle University, University of Derby, University of Edinburgh, Forest Research, James Hutton Institute, The Tree Council, The National Forest Company, The Mersey Forest Partnership, Woodland Trust Northern Ireland, Buccleuch Living Heritage Trust and Estates, Dufferin Foundation, Rothamsted Research and Butterfly Conservation.

‘Branching Out’ brings together researchers from the Stockholm Environment Institute, and the Departments of Theatre, Film, Television and Interactive Media, Archaeology and Computer Science.