Woodland Trust seeking project partners

Post date: 
12 Nov 2019 - 15:00
Member News


Opportunity to join a consortium leading on a full re-survey of the ‘Bunce’ Woodland Survey of Great Britain - 50 years on


Safeguarding the future of the UK’s native woods is essential to maintain their incredible wildlife resource and the vital ecosystem services they provide. Therefore, we need accurate data about the state of their health and the changes occurring within them. An effective and important way to achieve this is through long-term biological monitoring conducted at a landscape-scale.


Few robust, long-term datasets exist at this scale. However, the woodland ‘Bunce’ survey of Great Britain, first carried out in 1971 using ground breaking statistical techniques, is one exceptional example. The method that was developed is used in several other projects that are the most successful long term vegetation monitoring studies in Europe. Furthermore there are a long running series of publications describing the results (see Annex 1). In 2001 the broadleaved sites were resurveyed, and 2021 will mark 50 years since the original survey.


The Woodland Trust, in partnership with Professor Robert Bunce and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, are proposing to conduct a full resurvey of the broadleaf and pine woods, to be carried out over 2020-2022. This will provide an invaluable 50-year dataset, providing important insight into changes taking place in woods and the drivers of those changes. Over such a long time span it will be possible to detect the impacts of, for example, climate change, tree disease, browsing damage and air pollution which have amplified over recent years. The results will increase conservation knowledge, guide future woodland management, influence policymakers and contribute to further research.


The consortium


The expected total budget for the project is in the range of £380,000 to £420,000. Woodland Trust has committed to providing around 50% of the costs (£200,000) and is seeking partners to provide the other half, through financial or in-kind contributions. Without this match funding we will be unable to commence the resurvey and the 50 year window will pass us by. Through building a consortium of partners across the conservation and forestry sectors the costs can be shared to as little as £10,000 per year for 3 years.


The Centre for Ecology and Hydrology will be a key partner, contributing to management and steering of the project, contracting and training field surveyors, data management including provision of software for data capture, and data analysis. The analysis and final report by CEH will look at trends and comparisons for the entire 50 year time series.


We are keen to secure offers of support as soon as possible in order to develop a steering group and ensure the project is viable and enable us to begin the re-survey work next Spring. Therefore, please contact karenhornigold@woodlandtrust.org.uk with your interest in being involved. We welcome a discussion with you around any ideas or suggestions of support. Many thanks and we look forward to hearing from you.



Bunce survey background


The woodland ‘Bunce’ survey of Great Britain was carried out in 1971, 103 broadleaf woods across Britain and 26 pinewoods in Scotland were selected as representative of a wider sample of 2,453 woods (>4 ha) surveyed in the late 1960s. The statistical techniques used to identify the sample of woods and survey them were ground breaking at the time and are still valid and valued today. The sample of sites was chosen to represent the geographic spread and habitat diversity of Britain’s native broadleaved and pinewood resource.


In 2001 the broadleaved sites were resurveyed. Along with an increase in soil pH, the results showed a 32% decline in overall ground flora species richness since 1971 and a decline in nine shrub species, this was related to maturing woodland, as there was a net loss of smaller stem sizes and increased canopies creating more shade (Wood, 2015 – see annex 1). Following this there were calls for an increase in woodland management to allow more light to reach shrub and forest floor layers to improve species richness and structural diversity. Yet there is little evidence to show whether or not this is taking place at a national scale and if it is having a positive impact on biodiversity.


The Caledonian (native) pinewoods (Wood, 2016 – see annex 1) have not been resurveyed, yet they are likely to have been subject to considerable changes in environmental influences and management. Known threats, such as plantations on ancient woodland sites, are being tackled to some degree in Britain’s pinewoods and restoration efforts are underway in some areas. However, understanding and quantifying the impacts of other changes, such as grazing or nitrogen deposition, will be incredibly valuable in order to better protect and manage pinewoods for the future.



Woodland Trust CEO Darren Moorcroft:

“The Bunce survey was an important piece of evidence gathering conducted some decades ago. We believe it would be very useful to repeat this to provide important information on woodland health and drivers of change. Woodland Trust will lead on the resurvey and provide 50% of the costs if we can build a consortium of interested partners to help fund and deliver the project.”  


Karen Hornigold, Conservation Evidence Officer

Email: karenhornigold@woodlandtrust.org.uk. Telephone: 0343 770 5808