The government said woodlands are facing “unprecedented challenges” from the impacts of climate change and an increased risk of tree disease and pests – including ips beetles, Dutch elm disease and ash dieback.
“These kinds of diseases threaten valuable habitats for thousands of species of wildlife,” it said.
“This funding will support vital research into ways to mitigate and prevent these impacts, helping to protect woodlands and plant more trees in the long term.”
The new Forest Research programme is set to back 30 projects and work with 27 partner organisations.
Projects set to benefit from the funding include:
- Studying the complex networks of soil nutrients and plant roots to see how they help boost woodlands;
- Work to better understand how tree seeds can fall naturally and plant themselves;
- Developing our understanding of how drought is impacting tree growth;
- Looking at the social and economic benefits of woodland creation and expansion;
- Examining the barriers to agroforestry, where trees and agricultural crops grow on the same piece of land.
Forestry Minister Rebecca Pow said: “Not only do we need to plant trees, for tomorrow, we also need to support their long-term protection from the host of threats they face due a changing climate.”
Forestry Commission chair, Sir William Worsley, said:
“Trees can only help mitigate the impact of a changing climate if they are resilient to those challenges themselves.
“Forest Research will be vital to supporting tree planting activity through building the evidence base to inform and improve our management of trees and selection of resilient species for the future to increase woodland cover for future generations.”