Quantifying carbon cycling research at Wytham Woods

tree diagram

In 2005 we commenced a major forest-climate research programme at Wytham Woods, the University-owned woodland six miles north of Oxford. The last year has seen a major expansion of research activity at Wytham, in a joint collaboration between SoGE/ECI (co-ordinated by Professor Yadvinder Malhi) and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) at Wallingford (co-ordinated by Dr Mike Morecroft).

Activities include:

  1. The establishment of a network of forest plots looking at the impacts of forest fragmentation on climate resilience. This work is supported by Earthwatch (with funding from the HSBC Climate Partnership) and involves a series of 10-day field stays by volunteer HSBC employees throughout the spring and summer, during which the volunteers participate in field research and receive lectures on climate change. The volunteers spend half their time measuring trees and the carbon cycle (guided by Dr Terhi Riutta of the ECI from 2008-2011 and thereafter Dr Nathalie Butt), and half their time tracking animals with the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU). An article about this activity has appeared in Oxford Today entitled 'Seeing the trees for the Woods'.
  2. The rehabilitation of a canopy walkway (now owned by the SoGE) which enables access to the forest canopy for studies of leaf physiology, canopy biology, forest light environment and remote sensing
  3. The installation of an 18-hectare plot where all trees greater than 1 cm in diameter were identified, measured and mapped (a total of 20,000 trees!). This work was implemented by Dr Nathalie Butt and funded by the Smithsonian Institution and HSBC, as part of the creation of the Global Forest Observation Network (GFON). GFON aims to co-ordinate long term monitoring of the ecology and dynamics of selected forests across the world, and includes sites across the tropics, and in North America and East Asia. Wytham is the first GFON site in Europe, and thus a flagship site for long-term ecological monitoring of forests
  4. The implementation of continuous measurements of carbon dioxide, water and energy fluxes from a tower above the canopy (in partnership with CEH)
  5. Regular studies of leaf properties (with a cherry-picker!) and frequent aircraft remote-sensing overpasses with the NERC airborne facility (as part of a project funded and co-ordinated by CEH)

In summary, Wytham Woods has become one of the busiest sites in the world involved in the study of forest-atmosphere interactions. If you would like to visit the facility, or incorporate projects or student work into the activity, please contact Professor Malhi via

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Project details