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University of Cambridge Conservation Research Institute

 

Ellie Tew helps Forestry Commission plan for the future

Much of our land management has traditionally focussed on maximising the production of a few specific benefits, such as food or timber. However, the natural environment provides many other benefits that are fundamental to human wellbeing, but which we’ve often taken for granted – things like clean water, climate regulation, recreation opportunities and scenic beauty. To achieve a sustainable future capable of supporting an expanding human population while also making space for nature, we need to manage our land efficiently, taking all of these benefits into account. This was the subject of my PhD research, using UK forestry as my case study.

My PhD was a highly interdisciplinary project. I evaluated how forest management delivers the full range of benefits (or ‘ecosystem services’) to society. This involved disciplines and areas of science far beyond my ecological training, such as soil science, carbon modelling, hydrology, social science and economics. I collaborated widely with researchers from other disciplines, both within UCCRI and further afield at other institutions. As a CASE studentship my PhD was also formally partnered with a non-academic organisation, Forestry England. I spent time working in their offices, attended meetings, gave presentations and, of greatest benefit, I had access to the expertise and knowledge of their forestry specialists. This relationship was without doubt the most rewarding part of my research and I have now been able to follow it up with extra funding from the NERC National Productivity Investment Fund to help apply and embed my results within Forestry England’s work programmes.