In collaboration with our valued stakeholders, we focus on maximising conservation impact – underpinning our work with evidence and building our credibility as leaders in conservation science and practice.

By aligning our research priorities with our strategic goals to protect, create and restore, we deliver our vision of creating a world where native trees and woods thrive for people and nature.

Please note: these grants are only for research-related projects. If you're planning to undertake tree planting in your school or community, you can find out more on our free trees for schools and communities page.

2022 Research Grant Call

The 2022 Research Grant Call focused on awarding Small Research Grant funding of between £20,000 and £60,000 for research projects aimed to address one or more of our priority research themes within 24 months.

Small Research Grants are to award funding:

  • for novel applied research relevant to the conservation of UK woods and trees
  • for short-term, pilot or proof-of-concept research
  • to help under-represented and early-career woodland conservation researchers gain experience in leading applied research projects with a practitioner non-government organisation.

How to apply

Applications for 2022 Research Grant Call funding have now closed and are no longer being accepted. Please contact us at if you would like to be notified when our next grant call is open.

Eligibility and evaluation criteria

Research themes

Our research priorities are directly aligned with our strategic goals, with an overall focus on creating a world where native trees and woods thrive for people and nature.

Grant applicants are encouraged to explore any applied research that aligns with the themes to protect, create and restore, and must demonstrate how their research project will address one or more of these themes. Example priority questions are included for each research theme; however, this is not an exhaustive list.

Theme 1: Protect

To enhance our ability to protect all ancient trees and woods, stop the loss of irreplaceable habitats and carbon stores, and preserve our natural heritage.

Research under this theme should aim to inform the protection of new and existing woods and trees, particularly those that are ancient, from the huge array of threats that they face – enhancing resilience and ecological integrity at both a site and landscape scale.

We encourage research that enables us to map and prioritise threats more effectively and, as a result, allows us to make the case for better protection through campaigning and policy influencing.  

Topics and issues of interest under this theme include (but are not limited to):

  • How many trees outside woods (TOWs) have been lost from the UK in recent centuries? What are the causes and rate of loss, particularly in urban areas and how many of these were ancient or veteran trees?
  • How many 'future veterans' do we need in the landscape to secure populations of ancient and veteran trees? What are the practical and socio-economic barriers to the replacement of lost TOWs?
  • What area of ancient woodland has been lost since 1600 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and since 1750 in Scotland? What are the causes and rates of loss?
  • What effect does the loss of ancient woods and trees have on efforts to combat climate change? How valuable are old-growth woods, trees and their soils for sequestering and storing carbon?
  • What are the relative priorities and spatial distribution of landscape-scale threats to UK woods and trees? Can these threats be ranked to inform prioritisation of activity?
  • Are the government’s past and current tree protection policies and legislation, for example, felling licences and designations (Sites of Special Scientific Interest and Tree Protection Orders), working for nature and for people?
  • What are the main sources and effects of development and air pollution, particularly ammonia emissions, on ancient woods and trees? How effective are different-sized buffers compared with other measures in protecting these irreplaceable habitats?
  • Can an understanding of the perceptions, views, barriers and motivations of key stakeholders (e.g. landowners, the public, policymakers) help influence cultural change and create the perception that damage to ancient woods and trees is socially unacceptable?
  • Can we help encourage the success of the UK and Ireland Sourced and Grown Assurance Scheme (UKISG) by comprehending the perceptions, views, barriers and motivations of key stakeholders (e.g. landowners, the public, policymakers) to biosecurity, locally sourced seed and tree provenance?
  • What effect do specific invasive non-natives and pests and diseases have on wider ecosystem services, in relation to their direct effects and the effect of loss of tree species? Do pests and diseases cause a net loss of trees compared with woodland creation rates?

Theme 2: Create

To enhance our ability to create quality native woods and trees to benefit nature, climate and people into the future.

Research under this theme includes the investigation of innovative techniques and methods for creating new native woodland for different objectives, in different environments and at different scales – at a local and landscape level.

Research outputs should be directly beneficial to practical delivery or policy influencing, and may take either a site or landscape approach. The overarching aim should be to create more biodiversity-rich ecosystems that are bigger, better and joined up. In addition to the impact on biodiversity and people, research may investigate the economics and cost-effectiveness of different approaches.

Topics and issues of interest under this theme include (but are not limited to):

  • To what extent are climate change mitigations (e.g. emission reduction) deterred as a result of engaging with carbon offsetting schemes, nature-based greenhouse gas removals and bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS)? How can we better integrate these schemes with payments for other ecosystem services and, where conservation is the primary objective, make them more accurate and applicable to trees?
  • What effects do different woodland creation ground preparation methods and approaches (e.g. direct seeding, planting, natural regeneration) have on soil carbon and mycorrhizal fungi? Can we learn from regenerative agriculture for techniques to modify soil properties and ecological function? 
  • What effects are the government's past and current woodland creation targets and support (e.g. incentives, policies, legislation) having on outcomes for nature and for people (e.g. grants and biodiversity net gain) on a site and landscape scale?
  • In terms of ecosystem service delivery, what effect does increased tree canopy cover have on semi-natural habitats, such as peaty habitats (including shallower peats), grassland, heathland, rivers, and upland habitats where there is often conflict with wading bird populations and other land uses?
  • What are the ecosystem service impacts of different types of agroforestry? In relation to this, what are the economic impacts (e.g. viability of land-use change) and impacts on stocks and flows of natural capital?
  • How can woodland creation best be designed to lead to desired ecosystem service-based objectives, taking into account site conditions, setting (rural, urban, previous and surrounding land-use), different ground preparation, and sustainable tree protection options?
  • What is the effect of the use of chemical control (e.g. glyphosate) on biodiversity in newly created woodlands? What is the efficacy of alternative methods of weed control (e.g. mulching, mowing, grazing)?
  • What is the effect of actively promoting ecotones, natural processes and successional habitats in the woodland creation process (e.g. through natural regeneration and direct seeding) on different site objectives such as biodiversity, carbon sequestration, wood products, water or air quality and recreation?
  • In the context of different service-based woodland creation objectives, what are the effects (including risks and opportunities) of trees of a non-local provenance and/or non-native species on ecosystem function and resilience?
  • How can we track and predict UK seed supply to support UKISG?

Theme 3: Restore

To enhance our ability to restore the ecological condition of existing native woods and trees and the landscapes in which they sit, to increase resilience and create the conditions for nature and people to thrive. 

Research under this theme should seek to provide policy or practical solutions to restoring native woodland and wooded landscapes, not just planted ancient woodland sites (PAWS), to improve and secure ecological condition. Only 7% of native woods are in favourable ecological condition for wildlife. 

Our ancient and veteran trees also face threats. Research is needed to enhance our ability to restore and secure these living legends, delivering evidence-based approaches to management.

Topics and issues of interest under this theme include (but are not limited to):

  • What is the link between woodland ecological condition assessment criteria and both biodiversity value and ecological complexity? How does this change in terms of the relative importance of different criteria depending on habitat type?
  • Do woodlands in better ecological condition facilitate better connectivity for individual species (e.g. saproxylic species), at a landscape scale, in terms of enhanced dispersal and reproduction?
  • What are the effects of woodland management decisions for different objectives (including in ancient woodland, PAWS and secondary native woodland)? For example, in relation to conservation grazing with cattle, minimum intervention, thinning, rewilding, species reintroductions.
  • How do different biotic and abiotic factors at the site and landscape scale, such as pests and diseases, clear-fell due to plant health notices or windthrow in PAWS, influence the effectiveness of passive and active woodland management decisions for different objectives?
  • Can an understanding of the perceptions, views, barriers and motivations of key stakeholders (such as landowners, the public, policymakers) to management approaches and decisions for improving woodland ecological condition, improve conservation outcomes?
  • Are the government’s past and current strategies, policies and legislation to improve woodland ecological condition, such as keepers of time and The UK Forestry Standard, working for nature and for people?
  • Can remote sensing techniques be used to assess the risk, threats and woodland ecological condition of ancient woodland, PAWS and secondary native woodland?
  • What are the economic and ecosystem service impacts of restoring PAWS to native, functioning, resilient ecosystems?
  • What effect does woodland ecological condition have on carbon sequestration, storage and stability in native trees and woods? How do different practical restoration techniques influence the effectiveness of this?

Landscape-scale research

We are particularly interested in applied, interdisciplinary research projects addressing issues with landscape-scale significance. This means we encourage research which integrates woods and trees across other habitats where appropriate, across other land-uses that traditionally do not feature trees, and into society more widely. However, it is acceptable for projects to be focused on individual sites or trees if this is instrumental to addressing the research question. If this is the case, scaling up outputs to have the broadest applicability will be encouraged.

Need more information?

Contact our team for more information about our conservation research programme and grant funding.

Phone: 0330 333 3300 

If you're looking to plant trees with your school or local community, take a look at our free trees for schools and communities page instead.

Further reading