Wessex Silvicultural Group

2019 Study

100 Years of Forest Research in Wessex

2019 marks the Centenary of the formation of the Forestry Commission. To mark this event the Wessex Silvicultural Group will be visiting past and present research trials. As always we will be visiting a diverse range of sites and will have the opportunity to discuss a wide variation of topics, starting with the growth and yield of Oak under four different thinning regimes followed by forest nutrition, old species plots, understanding resilience, the Forest Research carbon flux site and the effects of climate change on oak forests.

Meeting 1. Tuesday 30th April 2019 - Micheldever Wood

Theme: Oak Sample Plots and Natural Regeneration Trials

By kind permission of The Forestry Commission

Invited guest: Ralph Harmer

The 1950,s was a great period in the history of Forest research with a number of experimental sites established around the country to inform foresters on a wide range of subjects now and into the future. One such experimental sites was set up in Micheldever wood in 1953, establishing a number of Oak plots with the object of studying the growth and yield of Oak under four different thinning regimes. Adjacent in the Oak plots was an experiment laid down in 1956 to compare ordinary thinning with that of free grown Oak.

Some later trials looking at natural regeneration were also established in Micheldever wood, which were led by Ralph Harmer and the opportunity will be taken to view these on the day. It is hoped that Ralph will be able to join us to give feedback on the trials.

The visit will look at what can be learnt from these trials, what type of intervention is required next for the trial plots and how the trials may influence Oak silviculture in the future

Pre-meeting notes:

Meeting 2. Thursday 13th June 2019 - Isle of Wight

Theme: Old Species Plots

By Kind permission of the Forestry Commission

Invited guest: Chris Reynolds

The Isle of Wight is rarely visited by forestry groups for field visits yet this climatically favoured island has old species plots which may inform future species choice more widely owing to climate change. In addition, conservation of the red squirrel, woodland management where getting timber to market is a challenge and other realities of island life make for an interesting visit.

Travel arrangements will be confirmed nearer the time.

Meeting 3. Tuesday 16th July 2019 - Forest Research Alice Holt Lodge

Theme: Research and Monitoring for Resilience

By kind permission of Forest research

Invited guest: Matt Wilkinson

The aim of this day based at Alice Holt Lodge will be to learn about current research aimed at understanding resilience and the measures that can be taken when managing forests to increase resilience. In the morning we will visit the Forest Research carbon flux site and discuss the effects of climate change on oak forests. We will then move on and consider a long-term monitoring site in an oak woodland that is part of the Environmental Change Network; both sites are located in the Straits Enclosure just south of Alice Holt Lodge. In the afternoon there will be a walking tour to Alice Holt Arboretum where we will discuss ongoing work on Emerging Species and current threats to tree health. One highlight (of many!) will be a plot of P54 Sequoia sempervirens, which is magnificent!

Meeting 4. Wednesday 2nd October 2019 – Wareham Forest

Theme: Historic Forest Nutrition Research

By kind permission of The Forestry Commission

This meeting will be followed by the AGM

Wareham Forest for many years was the cradle of forest nutrition research. So poor were the soils that in the 1920s and 30s foresters despaired of growing trees with any vigour. The first really major breakthrough was discovering the significance of phosphate, which was followed by a remarkable period of sustained research into nursery nutrition led by Dr Blanche Benzian. By the 1960s so famous had Wareham become that it was the site chosen for seeing what the maximum rate of growth could be achieved for species that could outgrow Corsican pine. This famous experiment, Wareham 156, created what became Britain’s fastest ever growing plot of Sitka Spruce (of all species!) achieving a YC far exceeding 30. Annual foliar samples guided annual fertiliser applications and even copper deficiencies were induced. All this work will be reviewed and, where still surviving, old experiment sites visited.

The growth and prospects of Pinus radiata and P. muricata will also be examined.