Seeing the Wood For The Trees

Once a year the UBoC team – many of whom work in different departments to the core group in University of Leeds School of Earth and Environment / Priestley International Centre for Climate,  (we even have team members at the University of York now) – get together to have some fun, and do something useful.

This year’s Away Day involved measuring trees under the supervision of Dr Cat Scott in the Leeds Forest Observatory (LFO) at Middleton Wood, as well as a couple of team-building meetings and a well-earned slap-up supper.

Some of the UBoC team at Veritas, Leeds.

As the video explains, we need to measure tree growth in representative biomes and ecosystems around the world, to see how well they’re coping with the human carbon emissions responsible for global warming and thus climate change.

UBoC, and our research network LEAF, established the LFO to deliver data on tree performance in local site and atmospheric conditions, as well to provide a place for other tree-based research activity.

UBoC team leader and Trustee Professor Piers Forster says:

I’ve just come back from South Korea where I was an author of the IPCC Report on how we get the whole world to one and half degrees: We have to cut our emissions by fifty percent over the next ten year time frame. 

Our report is also saying that this is very challenging to do, because we’ve left it all too late. The emissions of the world are still going up when in fact they ought to have started to have come down about ten years ago. And I think really the only way we can turn back the clock is to somehow capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. 

Lots of people have come up with mad technologies to try do this, and put it back down into the earth. But the most straightforward and simple way is to go out there and plant some new wood. 

Perhaps the best place to plant is not in this country but in countries like Tanzania and the Amazon and Peru, but it’s really good to plant a tree anywhere. 

In fact the Committee for Climate Change [which Piers has recently joined] has just released a report suggesting that the UK should increase the cover of our woodland from 13% to 19%. But I think that is still not ambitious enough. 

If you look at the whole EU, they have forest cover of about 35%, and if, let’s say for example, we wanted to offset all our emissions from agriculture, we would have to increase wood cover to about 28%. So if we could set a 28% target for this country, that would account for all of our emissions from agriculture, which is very hard to reduce by other technologies.” 

You might also like to watch the team setting up the LFO last year;