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Silvifuture: A network promoting novel forest species

Submitted by Hamish Mackintosh 20th May 2014 13:29


SilviFuture is a network promoting and sharing knowledge about novel forest tree species across Britain.

Forestry in Britain is currently reliant on a limited number of species, which increases its vulnerability to changes in climate and pest or disease outbreaks. SilviFuture aims to support forest managers to diversify the species they grow, so the sector will be more resilient and remain capable of meeting society’s future needs.

The SilviFuture Network

To achieve diversity in Britain’s forests, it is necessary to assess the suitability of novel tree species grown in a forest environment. It is highly desirable to share practitioner experience on the establishment, silviculture and potential timber markets of potential species, to build a knowledge base, and to inspire confidence in the sector. SilviFuture provides an accessible means of collating, discussing and sharing this information.

The website has two main components:

  1. Species information. Information on the silviculture of over seventy tree species is provided, many of which are less well-known or tested in Britain.
  2. The database. The mapped database allows the user to query known locations of species growing in the UK. Each individual entry provides information on site conditions, growing conditions, the location of the site, photographs and the owner’s experiences of growing the species. Users can register to share information about their own forests.

Getting started

The concept of the network came from an Institute of Chartered Foresters field day at Westonbirt Arboretum looking at the potential of a range of new and novel species to provide UK forestry with resilient, varied and useful species for the future. Whilst seeing these species grown as specimen trees in an arboretum was useful, it was felt that to properly assess their suitability as forestry species it would be necessary to see how they performed in a forest environment.

From this initial concept it was decided that an online database listing the sites where species of interest are grown in a stand would be of great use. The Forestry Commission funded the piloting of the website, and the Sylva Foundation used their expertise in user-friendly website design to build the site.

Populating the Database

During the first few months of 2014, over 400 hundred public sector managed sites were added from Scotland, England and Wales by the Forestry Commission and Natural Resources Wales, supported by the Forestry Commission and ClimateXChange.

We are now engaging with the private sector to encourage managers and owners to add their sites and share their experiences.  

Promotion

The Forestry Commission are promoting SilviFuture to their staff and The Royal Forestry Society are promoting the site to their members. A promotional film was produced to explain SilviFuture to practitioners and policy leaders. The video was funded by ClimateXChange through Heriot-Watt University, under the Adaptation Knowledge Exchange workstream. The film can be viewed at:

What next?

Having set up the site, the aim is to continue its growth by promoting it to the sector. To ensure the information is correct and up-to-date we have an advisory group meeting twice a year to approve edits to species information. We are currently exploring options for the website to generate sufficient revenue to self-fund maintenance such as forum administration, technical support and hosting.

Links