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UBoC at Hardknott Forest

Restoring Hardknott Forest is a partnership between the University of Leeds and Forestry England which is restoring a 630 hectare former conifer plantation to a native oak and birch woodland.

UBoC Chair Dr Jonathan Wild

Since 2003 volunteers, including local residents and school children, and staff and students from the University of Leeds, have engaged in regular practical work parties to restore the area to native woodland. 

UBoC has now been supporting this project for a number of years, so trustee Dr Jonathan Wild visited to tour the site with project founder Professor Dom Spracklen and Project Officer John Hodgson.

Before restoration
After restoration

The tour took in areas of impressive natural tree regeneration as well as some priority areas where the project is targeting the removal of invasive conifers. A few more oak were added to the forest in the last tree planting of the season, and a new all-weather poster, which describes the project to visitors to the forest, was unveiled. The posters will be available at the car park and on the footpath and bridleway junctions to inform walkers and other recreational users of the forest about the restoration, and hopefully to recruit more volunteers.

John Hodgson and Professor Dom Spracklen

The project held its Spring residential last weekend. This was a great success – with volunteers attending from all over Cumbria, Yorkshire, Manchester and London. Large areas of Sitka spruce were cleared to uncover many naturally-regenerating trees. The Autumn residential is on the 5th and 6th of October.

This month John will be surveying an area of peatland which will be rewetted and restored. This had originally been drained to allow for conifer planting, but now Forestry England (the new name for the Forestry Commission) are providing the expertise and funding to return it to its natural state. There will be benefits for wildlife, such as dragonflies and water beetles, as well as upland waders and other birds, and because peatlands store huge quantities of carbon, there will be climate benefits too.

Trees on the Beeb

UBoC’s Professor Dominick Spracklen and PhD researcher Felicity Monger were interviewed by Nick Garnett last week at the Leeds Forest Observatory on Radio 5 Live Breakfast, as part of UN International Day of Forests

Dom Spracklen

You can listen to the interview here, first at about 55:20 and again at 1:56:30):

BBC Radio 5 Live have been doing excellent work on climate change and other global environmental issues such as plastic pollution, under their Cool Planet banner:

Felicity Monger

Dom and Felicity explained the research work being done at the observatory, the value of trees and their role in helping to mitigate climate change (clue; we can’t plant enough to fix the problem, but it certainly helps), and in helping to prevent flooding. Later they suggested ways in which people can get involved in supporting tree planting.

Team UBoC: Good News x2

Two good news items have hit the blog desk this week:

The first is that UBoC’s first fully-funded doctoral student has graduated, following the submission of his thesis on “The Impact of changes in anthropogenic air pollutants on particulate air quality and the attributable burden of disease” – so, congratulations to Dr Ed Butt!

Dr Ed Butt

Says Ed, “I stared working with UBoC back in 2010 and became their first funded PhD student in 2013. Since then UBoC has grown considerably with (soon) 11 other PhD students now working on all kinds of exciting research projects relating to the world’s forests and trees.

I would like to thank UBoC for providing me with the opportunities and skills needed to successfully complete my PhD project. It has been a real pleasure working with everyone over these past years.

However, I won’t be leaving Leeds or involvement with UBoC now that my PhD has come to an end. I have just taken up a postdoctoral position on the DECAF project, which seeks to understand climate and air quality impacts associated with tropical deforestation. My role will be looking that local climate impacts.”

The second good news story is that UBoC has appointed a Tree Officer: Anna Gugan.

Anna Gugan

Anna explains: “I first encountered UBoC when studying for my Masters in Landscape Architecture at Leeds Beckett. Initially I volunteered for the University of Leeds I-Tree survey in the summer of 2017, and then used I-Tree as part of my Major Design submission, which focused on Harrogate.

When UBoC’s i-Tree researcher, Dr Hannah Walker, left to take up a post in Antarctica, I helped finish the tree survey and data processing. Being appointed to the new post as UBoC’s Tree Officer is a great privilege, and I’m looking forward to working further with i-Tree and other natural capital valuation tools, as well as helping with the development of UK planting projects, especially the White Rose Forest, which forms the Yorkshire section of the Northern Forest.

How smoky are peat fires?

Deforestation in Equatorial Asia has been increasing in recent decades, as oil palm plantations spread out into the tropical forests of Borneo and Indonesia [1]. And as UBoC PhD student Laura Kiely has found from her research, while loss of habitat from this encroachment is often shown in the media, deforestation can have other, less well known impacts on the air quality and climate.

Fires are used to clear land for plantations, and the land is then drained, so it becomes more susceptible to future fires. [2]

Continue reading How smoky are peat fires?

Bodeker Scientific fly carbon neutral


New Zealand-based atmospheric research company Bodeker Scientific have again pledged to ensure that all company-related travel is carbon neutral.


Bodeker work with both local and international research organisations, such as the German Weather Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), to improve our understanding of the atmosphere and climate – which can involve a lot of air travel. Continue reading Bodeker Scientific fly carbon neutral

Increased deforestation and the Amazon basin rainfall

UBoC’s Dr Dominick Spracklen and his colleague, Dr Luis Garcia-Carrerasalso from School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds, report that continued deforestation of the Amazon rainforest could diminish rainfall levels in the Amazon River basin – which may impact the region’s climate, ecosystems and economies.

A new study, published in Geophysical Research Letters, predicts that by the middle of the century annual rainfall in the Amazon could be less than the yearly amount of rain the region receives during drought years if deforestation rates revert back to pre-2004 levels.







Continue reading Increased deforestation and the Amazon basin rainfall