Forests in a changing climate

Visiting scientist, Dr Bruce Nicoll from Forest Research UK, says native tree species could be complementary with exotics as forestry adapts to changing conditions worldwide.

“In the UK, we are moving towards diversified forestry species, away from large even-aged spruce plantations,” he says. “Diversification will give us more opportunities to create forests that meet a range of needs and are resilient to a changing climate.”

As Programme Group Manager for the Centre for Forestry and Climate Change, Bruce is helping to spearhead changes in the way forests are managed to balance public and economic interests.

“Whether or not people believe in climate change, there is a growing need to manage the risks caused by extreme weather events. This means that protecting people and infrastructure has become a major consideration in all land use decisions. In many cases, especially in Scotland, restoring native woodlands is the most suitable option where soil conservation issues have become important.”

Bruce says that political pressures are lending momentum to the ecosystem services approach where multiple forest values can be taken into account.

“All of these drivers are opening up options for different kinds of forestry models. What we are finding is that the mechanisms being proposed for climate change adaptation, make good economic and political sense as well.”

Bruce is collaborating with Scion on research associated with climate change and forestry, with particular focus on steepland forestry and erosion.

His visit to New Zealand is part of the TRANZFOR international exchange programme supported by the European Union and the Ministry of Science and Innovation in New Zealand.