The University of Birmingham has launched a major decade-long experiment to study the impact of climate and environmental change on woodlands.

The Birmingham Institute of Forest Research (BIFoR) field facility, which has been made possible thanks to a transformational £15 million donation to the University, will be created in Mill Haft Wood in Norbury, Staffordshire. 

BIFoR will be a world-leading initiative, which, when combined with four similar experiments in other climate zones, will form the largest machine ever built to study how landscapes will respond to our changing climate.

Unmanaged forest

The woodland at Mill Haft has been chosen because it is an unmanaged forest of mature trees – whereas similar experiments have only been carried out on young trees in plantations. The findings of the University of Birmingham experiment will provide the evidence on which to base strategies for the protection of iconic landscape features, such as oak woodlands, into the future.

The entire experiment depends on changing the woodland as little as possible. All of the experimental equipment will be nestled into the woodland by hand, and the ancillary buildings are designed to ensure they blend in with the forest. The proposed lighting is low-level and non-intrusive to minimise interference with wildlife and to ensure that the facility sits unobtrusively in its location.

World-leading centre in Staffordshire

Director of BIFoR and Professor of Atmospheric Science, Rob MacKenzie, said: 'We are delighted that Stafford Borough Council has approved our application, and we look forward to becoming part of the community in Norbury.

'We want BIFoR to become a world-leading centre in the understanding of how forests react to the threats which they face. Our Institute is supported by the Forestry Commission, Natural England, the Woodland Trust, and many other organisations who share our ambition to understand and manage our precious land resource in the UK.'