Main Content

The National Forest is Partner in National Research

Tuesday, 3rd February 2015

The National Forest Company is a partner in a national research project to investigate the factors that make woodlands function well as part of a resilient, wildlife-friendly landscape.

WrEN (Woodland creation and Ecological Networks) is a collaborative project led by the University of Stirling, Forest Research and Natural England, looking at how changes in land use over time impact on wildlife and ecological networks, using woodland as an example habitat.

Having studied lowland agricultural land in Scotland, the project approached the National Forest Company to use The National Forest as an ideal example of lowland English woodland, much of it created relatively recently on land formerly used for agriculture, mineral extraction and other uses.

As Kirsty Park, a Reader in Conservation Biology at the University of Stirling, explained: “The National Forest is invaluable in the national picture as to how woodlands help a landscape function as a rich ecological network. Because it features woodlands encompassing a wide range of stages, from very young to established, we can learn how past woodland creation has impacted on biodiversity, what differences the earlier land use may have made to its development and help us develop practical guidelines to help plan for future conservation work.”

Sam Lattaway, Head of Landscape, Biodiversity and Recreation for the National Forest Company, said: “We are delighted to be part of this national study to determine what makes woodlands enrich a wider landscape, looking at the small mammals, birds, invertebrates and plant life that live here. The information gathered will demonstrate not only what makes a woodland work as a wildlife habitat, but also, on a wider scale, how woodlands interact with each other to allow plants and animals to move between them and indeed, across a whole varied landscape.”

He continued: “The findings of the WrEN research will advance the thinking on woodland creation and management for the benefit of healthy wildlife, resilient ecosystems and diverse landscapes.”

The project is studying 40 woodlands across a swathe of the Midlands, stretching from The National Forest to Peterborough and south to Banbury, in addition to 70 woodlands in central Scotland. An extensive range of surveys is being conducted in each woodland, collecting detailed information on the types of species found and the size of their populations.

For further information see