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Conservation Research Institute


Project 8: Managing woodlands as Natural Climate Solutions (includes a field component) 
Supervisors: Professor David Coomes and Dr Edmund Tanner 

The world’s forests could play a significant part in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions in the next 20 years, removing carbon dioxide to offset emissions in hard-to-decarbonise sectors and delivering many other benefits for people and biodiversity. Woodlands currently sequester about 25% of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere. If the international community were able to halt deforestation, restore degraded forests and replace recently lost woody cover, then woodlands could provide up to a quarter of the cost-effective climate mitigation required in the coming decade to stabilise warming to below 2°C.  Many governments and businesses are committed to increasing forest cover: the Bonn Challenge has resulted in 58 nations pledging to restore 173 million hectares of woodland; 131 nations have already included Nature-based Solutions (NbS) in their nationally determined contributions to achieving net-zero and businesses have put their weight behind the Trillion Trees campaign. The UN Environment Agency has announced the 2020s as the decade of restoration, adding further momentum to these initiatives.   

This project will consider the impacts of utilising woodlands as NbS in the UK, one of the least forested countries in Europe as a result of historical land-use change. The UK government intends to include woodland expansion in achieving its legally binding target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The independent UK Climate Change Committee (CCC) has recommended that tree cover is increased from 13% to 18%, existing woodlands are brought into management and agroforestry systems are more widely adopted. The goals of the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan also require woodland creation. The project will consider the implications of different woodland management and establishment options on carbon sequestration in the context of Cambridgeshire, making use of a wonderful ancient woodland at Madingley (within easy cycling distance of the city centre) and neighbouring planted and naturally colonised woodlands, established to celebrate the University’s 800th anniversary.   

The Role of the Intern

The primary role of the intern is to conduct fieldwork at the Madingley wood site,  to (a) assess carbon storage in the ancient and mature secondary woodland by measuring tree diameters and heights within permanently marked and taking soil samples; (b) assess carbon storage (and accumulation) in the planted and naturally colonised woodlands including in the soil;  (c) assess of the disease status of planted and mature ash trees, building a time-series based on measurements taken 2 and 4 years previously; (d) possibly take some drone imagery,  to build a time-series of forest dynamics using remote sensing approaches. 

Student Profile  


  • Organised and independent  
  • Demonstrated interest in UK conservation.  
  • Experience analysing datasets, including data handling in R  


  • Interested in plant ecology.   
  • It is possible that results from the internship could be integrated into a part II project, which could be of particular interest to students considering Part II Plant Sciences.   

Expected Outputs  

  • A written report of the summer’s work.   
  • Preparation of a well-annotated R code and datasets storing the information collected in the field.