Keeping forests healthy

Read how a new statistical model developed at the University of Bath is improving forest health monitoring.

A forest and distant castle
Researchers at the University are improving the health-monitoring and management of forests

Forests and trees are vital for humanities existence on earth, so it's crucial that they are looked after and kept free of disease.

Not only do forests take carbon out of the air, they are also important for local economies, wildlife and they are beautiful recreational spaces.

The challenge

The health of forests is difficult to monitor; it's hard to obtain accurate data to demonstrate the impacts of pollution and climate change on biodiversity. Forest managers need this knowledge to enable them to make suitable interventions that will ensure the terrain's ongoing health.

The solution

In collaboration with researchers at the Forest Research Institute Baden-Württemberg (FVA) in Freiberg, Germany, Bath statisticians developed a new model for estimating trends in forest health by monitoring data over time and across whole areas. The new model accounts for possible spatial and temporal correlation and incorporates important predictors while being computationally efficient.

The benefits

This research has led to improved and more cost-effective forest health monitoring and management, to mitigate the effects of pollution and climate change. The new models developed in Bath have been adopted to produce annual reports on forest health and achieve significant cost reductions through improved sampling. A forest soil treatment programme has been introduced, which is improving growth conditions and reversing the effects of pollution on trees. In addition, the model helps forest managers to plan for climate change by planting more resilient tree species.

‘The spatio-temporal model developed was crucial in assessing the cost-efficiency of the sampling scheme for monitoring tree health. This resulted in a yearly cost-saving of €100,000.’
Klaus von Wilpert Head of Department, Forest Research Institute