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Soils training for foresters

Following the in the footsteps of the successful ‘Soils for arboriculture’ workshop developed and delivered for the Arboricultural Association since 2016, Andy Moffat has been asked to deliver a similar course for foresters. This time the Royal Forestry Society is interested in giving foresters first-hand training in soil type recognition in order to help in decision-making which depends on or affects the soil, such as tree species choice or harvesting. Training will also be given in how to use soil information to input into the Forestry Commission Ecological Site Classification system. The one day workshop was held at the Forest Research Alice Holt Research Station in Surrey on 28th June 2018. Feedback from course participants was excellent (see below) and there are already plans to hold another course in 2019.

A good example of community science

Yesterday, over 100 people attended the launch of a report ‘Petersfield’s Trees – their importance and value. Results of the i-Tree Eco survey’. The report is the result of a project to characterise and value Petersfield’s trees, as reported in News in March 2016 ( The survey was undertaken by 43 volunteers, who after appropriate training, surveyed over 200 plots across the parish. The report describes the tree species identified, tree size and condition, and then evaluates a number of important ecosystem goods and services that they provide to the community. i-tree and CAVAT methodologies allow monetary valuation of storm water attenuation, carbon sequestration, air pollution absorption and amenity value. The report discusses these in the context of town development, climate change and the threat of tree pests and diseases. It can be downloaded HERE.

Following publication of the report, future activities will focus on continuing and developing community engagement with Petersfield’s green infrastructure and the construction of a Tree Strategy for the town.

The value of recognising ‘extreme events’ in environmental management

‘Natural disasters’, of which flooding, wildfire and volcanic eruption are often quoted causes, is a concept surely well past its ‘sell-by’ date. We increasingly understand that there is a strong human dimension to all these extreme events, inasmuch as man’s interaction with the environment through urbanisation, agriculture and global warming can often exacerbate their magnitude and frequency. But through the use of science we can seek to predict their occurrence, and reduce their impact to the communities involved through better communication and preventative management. The UN has been developing and implementing an ‘International Strategy for Disaster Reduction’ since 1999. Its Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction is the main vehicle for executing the strategy and last month promoted a major international conference in Cancun, Mexico. Many publications were launched at the conference including a comprehensive assessment of the place of science in disaster risk management, from a European perspective. It was collated, edited and published under the direction of the European Commission Disaster Risk Management Knowledge Centre. The full report can be accessed HERE. It is divided into three parts: understanding disaster risk, communicating disaster risk and managing disaster risk, forming a “bridge concept” for the report. Andy Moffat was pleased to be asked to contribute to the chapter on wildfire risk.

The importance of urban tree strategies in protecting tree resources

Travel broadens the mind, and nearly two months studying the place of trees in Australian and New Zealand urban landscapes has been invaluable in developing understanding on this subject. ‘Down under’, the need for a strategic approach to tree management in the face of climate change, an aging tree population and urban heating appears to be well embedded into town/city policies. As a result, there are several functioning strategies in place and even a strategy for producing an urban forest strategy – download HERE. Christchurch, now showing good progress in emerging from the devastating 2012 earthquake, remains wedded to its description as a ‘garden city’, which apparently predates its use in Letchworth and Welwyn. And Melbourne is convincing as a beacon of ambition for the maintenance and increase of the city tree canopy: a “city within a forest rather than a forest within a city”. Other NZ cities show how it IS possible to marry a significant tree density with the usual constraints posed by engineering and transportation, even encouraging personal street tree planting by residents.

Britain’s urban forestry movement is currently undergoing something of a crisis of confidence with some towns and cities seemingly intent on relegating the role of trees whilst others are positively embracing the goods and services they offer. Experience in the southern hemisphere would seem invaluable for those seeking to influence decision makers in British local authorities. Andy Moffat will continue to work in both hemispheres and will be promoting cross-fertilisation of ideas as an active campaign.

Looking backwards – and forwards

2016 was another good year for A J Moffat & Associates, with consolidation around soil, arboricultural and training services in particular. Consultancies included work for the Gilbert White Museum in Hampshire, Bangor University and a number of architectural practices. As usual, a significant knowledge transfer programme was maintained with several peer reviewed journal papers and articles published on tree health, citizen science, housing and land reclamation, forest fire hazards and urban forestry. A highlight was co-authorship of a comprehensive report on the state and trends in European forest ecosystems, published by the European Environment Agency. Workshops on demystifying soils for the arboricultural sector were well attended and well received across the country. Some university teaching was also given. At a personal level, Andy Moffat’s Visiting Professorship at the University of Reading was renewed for the third time. He was invited to represent the UK in two Horizon 2020 workshops on soil and land management research in Portugal and Italy, and at a meeting of the Expert Group on Forest Fires in Brussels.

Looking forward to 2017, in addition to delivering more workshops on climate change and soils for the arboricultural sector, new plans are in progress for the delivery of relevant expertise through training and knowledge exchange activities. A particular focus on urban forestry research is planned. Further publications in citizen science, urban tree survey, disaster risk management, forest fires, soil health and restoration ecology are already under way. In addition, A J Moffat & Associates will be again seeking to explore new areas both geographically and scientifically – beginning with a seminar at Lincoln University in New Zealand in March. All interesting offers or proposals will be considered too – it would be good to work with or for you!

Update: a pdf of Andy’s presentation “The place of trees in urban areas – an ecosystems approach to policy making” is available HERE

Botanic Gardens – valuable environmental resources

Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) defines botanic gardens as “institutions holding documented collections of living plants for the purposes of scientific research, conservation, display and education.” Botanic Gardens hold plant collections which date back decades and centuries and thus provide invaluable resources for the detection and study of environmental change. A J Moffat & Associates have recently been invited to evaluate the soil resources in the Arboretum at Treborth Botanic Gardens, part of Bangor University (, in support of the future management of important trees there. As well as plant collections in the grounds of Treborth Gardens, temperate and tropical houses support significant collections of plants, including orchids. The Gardens are also remarkable in housing the largest Rhizotron in Europe, an invaluable resource for the study of soil.

Detailed soil information is vital for effective planning and management of plant collections such as those at Treborth, and A J Moffat & Associates would be delighted to support other Botanic Gardens interested in these services. The company has previously worked on projects at the Gilbert White Museum in Selborne, and Marwell Zoo, near Winchester in Hampshire.