From the Industrial Revolution to The Birmingham Institute for Forest Research (BiFOR)

Taking a look at the impact of environmental and climate change
Committee members visit BiFOR in the Midlands

Last week, committee members had the opportunity to visit BiFOR to find out more about their research into tree planting and its impact on climate and environmental change. This event was generously sponsored by RB Rural LLP.

Formed in 2014 as a result of a £15 million donation, BiFOR aims to provide fundamental science, social science and cultural research which is of direct relevance to global forested landscapes.

Their research has been organised into four key themes:

  • Climate – The impact of climate and environmental change on woodlands.
  • Health – The resilience of trees to invasive pests and diseases.
  • Global – Big data approaches across space and deep time.
  • Urban and interdisciplinary – Understanding the wider importance of trees and forests to human and non-human actors.

Attendees were welcomed to Norbury Park, 2,200 acres of former arable land which has been planted with new woodland to offset carbon, by Estate Director, Steve Spencer and owner, Professor Jo Bradwell.

There were then walking tours of the site looking at the carbon storage and how this is measured to create useful data, herbal leys which are grazed by neighbouring farms and renewable energies such as biomass and solar.

Professor Bradwell discussed how complex mixtures of tree species grow faster and resist infections, how mixed woodland increases carbon uptake and the management of pests such as grey squirrels and deer. Attendees had the opportunity to see a grey squirrel trap in use, which has been developed by the institute and will be available for sale later this year.

A tour of BiFOR itself then followed, with everyone donning hi-viz and hard hats, and disinfecting their shoes to go into the woods and learn about BiFOR’s experiment – the BiFOR Free Air Carbon Dioxide Enrichment Facility (FACE) to address climate and environmental change on woodlands.

BiFOR - FACE Experiment

This was an interesting and informative event which really enabled members to see what BiFOR is working on. We were able to see experiments taking place first hand and gain some understanding of how the data collected will enable future generations to mitigate the effects of climate and environmental change.

Sophie Dwerryhouse, Midlands Regional Director