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Branching out

This project is developing new ways of mapping the social and cultural value of trees to inform policy decisions regarding urban treescapes in the UK.

Active project


Project contact

Alison Dyke /

Empty road in Milton Keynes, UK lined with trees

An empty road in Milton Keynes, UK lined with trees. Photo: Magda V / Unsplash.

Importance of treescapes

The UK’s woodlands, forests and urban trees have a key role to play in carbon reduction, biodiversity and nature recovery, as well as the need to enhance health and well-being, and provide a source for cultural inspiration. They also need to be resilient in the face of climate change, other environmental threats and socio-economic pressures.

Expanding the UK’s trees, woodlands and forests will play an important role in realizing the government’s ambition to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Evidence, tools and approaches developed by the project will help policymakers and land managers make informed decisions to reach this target.

About the project

SEI researchers are taking part in a £2.3 million UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)-funded project to improve understanding of the functions and services provided by treescapes.

Led by Professor Michael Wilson from Loughborough University, with partners from the Open University, University of York and Forest Research, Branching Out focuses specifically on urban treescapes.

The project was developed in response to the increased tree planting targets of local authorities, who recognize the importance of trees for carbon sequestration, and public health and well-being, as well as the neglect of social and cultural factors in decision making on urban trees.

The primary aims of the project are to establish interdisciplinary work between policymakers, public servants and citizen scientists and use this to discover the social and cultural value of treescapes.

To accomplish this, it will use storytelling as a key method for capturing the social and cultural values of trees, alongside a range of other approaches to understanding urban treescapes, including urban tree observatories, hyperspectral remote sensing, historic mapping and computer vision techniques, amenity modelling and citizen science in order to develop the largest and most robust urban tree monitoring data set in Europe. 

Pink cherry blossoms in Alexandra Gardens, Cathays Park, Cardiff, UK casting shadows over path with National Cardiff Museum in background.

Cardiff Museum gardens. Photo: Grooveland Images / Unsplash.

The project focuses on 3 cities to reflect a diverse range of treescapes. They are:

  • York, a historical city;
  • Cardiff, a post-industrial city; and
  • Milton Keynes, a post-1960s modern city.

Each city has particular – yet not uncommon – challenges relating to their treescapes. All three have declared a climate emergency and expect trees to play a role in mitigation and adaptation.


Alison Dyke

Research Fellow

SEI York

Rachel Pateman


SEI York

Howard Cambridge

Research Support Group Manager

SEI York

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