The RSPB’s Centre for Conservation Science has recently secured funding through the NERC Treescapes call, which seeks to improve our understandings of the functions and services provided by treescapes to inform on woodland expansion in the drive to Net Zero.

These two new projects (DiversiTree and STAND) have received a share of over £1 million funding. The Centre for Conservation Science is a partner in DiversiTree, and the lead applicant in the STAND project.

STAND: Overcoming scale-mismatch for designing and governing treescape expansion to benefit people and nature

Lead by RSPB, in collaboration with Cardiff University and UHI.

Woodland creation forms a core part of the UK Government's Net Zero Strategy, with a target to create 30,000 hectares of new woodland per year by 2024.

This study will investigate how these national policies can work on a local and community level, and the barriers to their success.

RSPB Gwenffrwd-Dinas Nature Reserve sits within the Elenydd-Mallaen Special Protection Area © David Wootton (

STAND will use existing datasets to model future scenarios for achieving these national targets, while also considering impacts on food production and birdlife.

Researchers will study the feasibility of achieving national targets in two RSPB priority landscapes, Elenydd-Mallaen in Wales and North Pennines & Dales in England. They will engage with communities and land managers to understand opportunities and barriers to woodland expansion.

DiversiTree: diversifying our woodlands to increase resilience

Lead by the James Hutton Institute, in collaboration with Bangor University, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, RSPB, the Woodland Trust and the University of Birmingham.

DiversiTree will provide woodland managers with the knowledge and tools required to enable them to increase the resilience of their woodlands to climate change, and pests and diseases. Researchers will do this by assessing the potential to diversify the tree species composition of our woods with both native and/or non-native species.

DiversiTree’s four main objectives are to:

  • understand how woodland managers and other stakeholders understand woodland diversity, and their ambitions for future woods.
  • understand the impact of a diverse tree species mixture on the leaf microbiome and the potential impacts of this for resilience against pathogens.
  • understand how diversification of woods can increase the resilience of woodland biodiversity and ecosystem functioning.
  • provide practical advice on the methods to, and the impacts of, diversifying tree species composition.

Can diverse woodlands increase resilience? Andy Robinson (

The Treescapes project

Forests and other treescapes account for 13 per cent of the UK’s land surface, and capture approximately 21 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, providing an important contribution to the UK’s goal of reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050. They also reduce flooding, improve biodiversity, reduce pollution and benefit people’s wellbeing.

The projects are two of six interdisciplinary studies announced today which have received a share of £3 million funding over the next two years from UK Research and Innovation. Each project will improve our understanding of the composition of treescapes in the UK, and their value to people and the planet. The research will also support the Government’s ambition to increase tree cover across the country.

The programme is designed to answer the ‘what, where, how and for whom’ of treescape expansion and will help us to better safeguard our trees, woods and forests. The research will also investigate the importance of tree expansion in urban spaces, why we connect with woodlands, and how we encourage landowners and farmers to plant more trees.

Funders of the Future of Treescapes programme are: 

  • Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC)
  • Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
  • Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
  • Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra)
  • Welsh Government
  • Scottish Government
  • Forestry Commission

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