The future of treescapes

The newLeaf project is investigating how quickly trees can adapt to environmental changes and whether human intervention is needed to protect their future.

Scientific challenge

Treescapes - our woodlands, forests and trees - are critical for our environment, health, well-being and ability to move to a zero-carbon society. We need millions more trees in our landscape to help the UK achieve net zero, but a more unstable future climate, and new pests and diseases, make planning ahead difficult. Although they have great adaptive potential, we don’t yet know if tree species can adapt fast enough.

This is the central question for the newLEAF project, and if trees cannot adapt fast enough what can humans do to help? newLEAF seeks to answer these by exploring how our treescapes have adapted in the past and what this can tell us about their future, including how we interact with them.

Project summary

The newLEAF project is studying the last 100 years of treescape history in the UK, combining data on changing tree populations with historical policy information. Researchers will measure how much tree species have already adapted, in real populations, and how much they could change, by looking at experimental planting. They will build computer models to test strategies and tools to help minimise risk from pests and disease. All this will help us understand the link between policy choices and the outcomes for treescape resilience.

The project will also work with arts researchers to understand how artists view uncertainty, dynamism and change in creating their work, and will aim to engage people with these themes through the creation of a new artistic work.

Collaborating institutes

  • UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH)
  • Forest Research
  • James Hutton Institute
  • University of York
  • University of Strathclyde
  • University of Stirling
  • University of Glasgow
  • Robert Gordon University

Funding information

newLEAF is one of six interdisciplinary projects receiving a share of £10.5 million funding from UK Research and Innovation as part of its Future of UK Treescapes programme, which will inform decision making by governments, local authorities and land managers.

Visit the project website for more information.

UKCEH staff

Project lead