Latest News

A small contribution to important wildfire research in New Zealand

Andy Moffat was pleased to be invited to participate in baseline vegetation monitoring as part of a large wildfire experiment whilst visiting New Zealand this year. The internationally supported research, led by Scion’s Rural Research Fire Group, sought to test an American hypothesis that convective heat transfer plays a more prominent role in fire spread than previously thought. The hypothesis has been tested in 2020 in a series of heavily instrumented fire experiments in mature gorse at Redcliffs Station, Rakaia Gorge, Canterbury. More information can be found on the Scion website and a video of the experimentation can be viewed HERE.

Visiting Professorship at the University of Reading renewed again

Andy Moffat’s Visiting Professorship at the University of Reading has been renewed for a further three years. Andy graduated at Reading and was granted the title of Visiting Professor with the School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science in 2007. He has maintained close links with the university throughout his career and co-supervised a number of PhD students there. He remains actively involved, for example in projects on citizen science and soil health, and is part of the Mentor scheme there.

The University of Reading (http://www.reading.ac.uk/about/) is one of the UK’s leading research-intensive universities and is in the top 30 universities in the UK (QS World University Rankings 2020).

How to plant three billion more trees in Britain!

Last week, the Tree Council organised a Forum for Trees in London, with the main purpose of discussing how the UK could extend its stock of trees in order to fight the increase in carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere. Sixty six representatives from from sectors spanning forestry, arboriculture, property development, infrastructure and government, as well as conservation charities, farmers and scientists were invited, including the Tree Champion Sir William Worsley. Sir William gave an address describing Government policy for more tree planting and he described his continuing work to ensure that this succeeded. Amy Bray, a very impressive sixteen year old, and founder of the charity ‘Another Way’ was another inspirational speaker. Most of the day was spent determining the opportunities and challenges associated with tree planting, and finding ways to marshall the public and private sectors, as well as charities and communities themselves to rise to the challenge. Andy Moffat was delighted to take part in the event and can be seen in the account summarising the event by the Tree Council. Those interested in receiving a summary of the Forum’s findings can register interest at the Tree Council website.

Soil training for professionals involved in forestry and arboricultural management

Sadly, only two British universities now offer undergraduate courses with the word ‘soil’ in the course title. As a soil scientist almost by accident myself, I can see that soil may not attract many school leavers to commit three or four years in its study. But as someone who has been involved with soil management for a large part of my career, the lack of opportunity for formal soil study at a crucial time in our planet’s evolution seems very regrettable. Nevertheless, it is gratifying to see that a number of professional organisations have sought to train their staff in matters of soil management. Following delivery of soil workshops in previous years, the early summer in 2019 has been an especially busy one for A J Moffat & Associates, with delivery of soil courses for the Royal Forestry Society Royal Forestry Society in Alice Holt Forest, Surrey, the Arboricultural Association at Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire and, for the first time, the South Wales Trunk Road Agent near Swansea.

Climate change and UK wildfire

In 2007, whilst working for Forest Research, Andy Moffat gave a presentation at the ‘Wildfire 2007’ conference with Karl Kitchen from the Met Office entitled “Climate change and forest fires in the UK – possible impacts”. Of course this wasn’t the first time that a linkage between these two phenomena had been asserted, but it was one of the earliest to formalise the link for UK forest land management. Yesterday, the Parliamentary Office of Science & Technology published a concise and convincing update of the subject as a POSTnote entitled “Climate Change and UK Wildfire”. This has been compiled by Lauren Shotter and Jonathan Wentworth from evidence provided by a range of stakeholders. Andy Moffat was delighted to be asked to be involved in this process and also to act as an External Reviewer of the Note.

The POSTnote can be downloaded HERE. Its main findings are that wildfires are becoming a significant hazard in the UK, almost certainly because climate change is increasing their frequency. It identifies that the responsibility for managing wildfire risk is shared between a number of government departments and other stakeholders, most importantly the land owners themselves. It concludes that better wildfire prevention could be achieved through landscape management.

How to manage veteran beech trees under a changing climate – a study in Burnham Beeches

In December 2018, A J Moffat & Associates were asked to review the evidence for current management of veteran beech trees at Burnham Beeches in Buckinghamshire, from an environmental perspective. The City of London Corporation, which sponsored the work, were particularly interested in how management operations such as ‘halo clearance’ might impact on soil and water relationships. The review also examined likely effects of atmospheric pollution and increasing drought risk on the veteran trees. The report, which can be downloaded HERE, concluded that halo clearance was compatible with enhancing moisture supply to the trees, but that wholesale clearance was likely to be detrimental to tree condition. It makes several recommendations to optimize veteran tree retention as the climate becomes warmer and drier in this part of Britain.