Aberdeen researchers join UK-wide project to improve understanding of the value of trees

Aberdeen researchers join UK-wide project to improve understanding of the value of trees

University of Aberdeen researchers will join a range of national partners in a major new initiative to develop innovative tools and approaches which will help trees and woodlands adapt to climate change and enable the UK to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions.

They are part of one of six research projects sharing in £10.5 million funding from UK Research and Innovation to improve understanding of issues ranging from tree planting targets and capturing greenhouse gases to improving wellbeing.  

Aberdeen researchers will join Manchester Metropolitan University and a host of other partners including Natural England and Forest Research to support and examine children and young people's knowledge and experiences of treescapes.  

They will then bring these together with innovative scientific expertise of how trees adapt to and mitigate climate change, advancing new approaches to creating and caring for resilient treescapes that benefit the environment and society. 

The interdisciplinary Aberdeen team will draw on the north-east’s natural resources, including Bennachie, for the three-year project, entitled ‘Voices of the Future: Collaborating with children and young people to re-imagine treescapes.  

Working with the City Council, primary schools and a storyteller, they will create new narratives about urban trees. While in Aberdeenshire, the team will build on long-standing community research around the hill of Bennachie to explore woodland histories and imagine new landscapes.  

The project will build on historical understanding of these important landscapes using palaeoenvironmental analysis of peat cores to discover more about woodlands in the past.  

This will then support discussions of possible futures for these habitats, such as the increased business and employment opportunities for young people that woodlands could provide.  

Dr Elizabeth Curtis, of the School of Education said: “This is an exciting opportunity for children, and their teachers to investigate the contribution of trees in learning for sustainability. Through arts-based learning young people will explore the science and heritage of trees across cultural imaginations and how they have become an integral part of the cityscape. Working alongside a range of tree experts children will learn about and become community advocates for the role of trees in their everyday lives, for future well-being and employment.’ 

Dr Ed Schofield of the School of Geosciences said: “In order to better anticipate how woodlands might respond and be managed effectively in the face of climate change, it is first important to have knowledge of how these habitats and their component species changed in the past. As the future custodians of woodlands, this project will help young people develop a better understanding of British woodland history going back many thousands of years.”     

Dr Jo Vergunst of the Department of Anthropology said: “Woodland areas offer good opportunities for learning because they are often less structured and more accessible than other parts of the landscape, as well as offering great material resources. As we’re going to need more trees as part of climate change mitigation, there may be the potential to change our whole relationship to landscape.” 

The researchers’ first task is to map the existing provision of activities and resources for learning in rural and urban woodland and forested landscapes in north east Scotland. Anyone interested in these themes is welcome to contact the researchers via Dr Jo Vergunst, j.vergunst@abdn.ac.uk. 

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