North Devon woods helping monitor effects of climate change

PHD student Alison Smith taking photosynthetic efficiency readings from leaves in the ancient Huntsh

PHD student Alison Smith taking photosynthetic efficiency readings from leaves in the ancient Huntshaw woodland of Clinton Devon Estates. - Credit: © Guy Newman

Huntshaw Woods near Torrington are the subject of a four year research programme be PhD student Alison Smith.

PhD student Alison Smith generating images of tree cover in an ancient Devon woodland owned by Clint

PhD student Alison Smith generating images of tree cover in an ancient Devon woodland owned by Clinton Devon Estates to monitor the effects of climate change. - Credit: © Guy Newman

AN intricate study of ancient woodland in North Devon could help scientists monitor the effects of climate change.

Huntshaw Woods, near Torrington and part of the Clinton Devon Estates, is the subject of a four year research programme by scientist Alison Smith into climate change.

When complete, the study will be package into a simple measurement toolkit that can be used by ‘citizen scientists’ in their local woodlands to predict the impact on forests.

PhD student Alison’s research involves measuring leaves, buds, ground flora, saplings and canopy cover and mapping her findings against changes in the weather.


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The woods in Huntshaw have been chosen for the study because they are the native broadleaf woodlands in Britain and a registered site of special scientific interest (SSSI).

Alison said: “At the moment, the methods used to detect the subtle changes in the growth and health of forest species are too costly, too time consuming and too labour-intensive to study as widely as is needed.

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“I am hoping to find methods that can accurately monitor the effects of the climate on woodlands, which are cheaper and easier to use, and ideally which can be carried out by trained members of the community.

“Then we can gather information from all over the UK to work out how our forests are responding to their changing surroundings.

“Eventually, this will mean that we can implement appropriate and effective management to mitigate detrimental effects and protect species that might be endangered by changing climates.”

Once Alison has completed her field studies she is hoping to take her methods across the globe to Eduador to trial them in the high altitude forests.

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