Scientific challenge

To repeat the  'Bunce' 1971/2001 GB broadleaved woodlands survey and 1971 Scottish pinewoods survey, between 2020 and 2022

In 1971, a survey of trees, ground vegetation and soils was undertaken by Professor R.G.H. Bunce of the Nature Conservancy, within a set of 103 broadleaved woods across Britain, and 27 native pinewoods in Scotland. The broadleaved sites were drawn from a larger survey carried out in the 1960s for the Nature Conservation Review. They were therefore mainly ancient semi-natural woodlands (ASNW) and so reflect the state of woods of conservation interest.  The pinewoods represent the major 27 sites of the 35 sites identified as truly native pinewoods in Scotland.  The broadleaved woodland sites were revisisted during 2000-2003 (the ‘2001 survey’).  The Woodland Trust and the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology are repeating this survey over the next few years with the support of a number of other organisations. 



Photos: C. O'Rourke, G. Routledge





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Project overview


  • To provide a unique evidence base for understanding the effects of multiple drivers across a nationally representative sample of woodlands of higher conservation value.
  • To provide a unique perspective on how understanding the past helps interpret the present regarding land-use and disturbance legacy effects.
  • To provide new evidence and understanding of the impact of Ash Dieback, and the interaction between ongoing recovery from acidification and the eutrophying effect of N deposition.
  • To provide up-to-date evidence of the impacts of deer grazing while also testing whether the vegetation changes in the understorey have stabilised or been reversed due to local disturbance (e.g. October 1987 storm sites).
  • To provide an immediate post-Brexit baseline, providing a snapshot of the state of a robust sample of AWI and SSSI across Britain prior to an uncertain future where for example, significant woodland expansion could result from changes in agriculture.
  • To provide an opportunity to characterise the nearly 50 year trend in terms of new variables that reflect links to ecosystem services such as carbon storage in canopy and soils, nectar yield, diversity of Crop Wild Relatives and also the changing role of woodlands as refuges for species associated with cultural value such as butterfly larval foodplants, plants of ancient woodland and a wide range of Common Standards Monitoring species associated with semi-natural habitats less common in lowland Britain.
  • To form the quantitative foundation of a new nationally representative context against which to express change in other woodlands.



Kirby, K et al (2005). Long term ecological change in British woodland (1971-2001). English Nature Research Report 653, 1-136

Smart, SM et al (2018) Time for a Bunce re-survey. WoodWise. Conservation News. Pgs 16-19.

Wood, CM et al (2015) Woodland Survey of Great Britain 1971–2001. Earth Syst. Sci. Data, 7, 203-214,, 2015.

Wood, CM and Bunce, RGH (2016) Ecological survey of the native pinewoods of Scotland 1971, Earth Syst. Sci. Data, 8, 177–189,, 2016


Pinewood floor

Principal Investigator

I am a senior research scientist and botanist at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. I am a visiting professor at Liverpool University. I have 27 years experience in the recording, analysis, interpretation and statistical modelling of ecological change in temperate ecosystems with a particular focus on vascular plants. I have led a range of projects investigating the causes and consequences of large-scale changes in plant species composition.

I currently work in the Land Use Group at Lancaster, working as a (spatial) data manager and analyst. Additionally, I work as a member of the Environmental Informatics Liaison team, supporting the Land Use, Lake Ecosystems and Environmental Data groups, improving data management practices across UKCEH, and running the Environmental Information Data Centre.