Awards | News

Sylva Trophy for man behind forestry’s ‘Hadron collider’

Professor Jo Bradwell, who is credited with transforming the research landscape for forestry in England in less than a decade, has been awarded the Sylva Trophy.

By Becky Wilkinson · August 15, 2018

Pic Credit: RFS / Brian Martin

The Sylva Trophy recognises a person or organisation who, in the opinion of the Royal Forestry Society (RFS), has made an outstanding contribution to forestry. The 2018 award recognises Professor Bradwell’s ‘can-do’ attitude which has enabled ambitious research (long consigned to the ‘too difficult’ box) to be carried out.

With a £15M gift to the University of Birmingham, one of the largest philanthropic gifts to a UK university, Professor Bradwell and his wife, Dr Barbara Scott, inaugurated the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research (BIFoR). One of BIFoR’s ground breaking projects is the Free-Air Carbon Enrichment (FACE) facility in old-growth oak woodland on Professor Bradwell’s Norbury Park estate in Staffordshire.

Giving the citation at the RFS Excellence in Forestry Awards, Simon Lloyd, RFS Chief Executive, said: “This is a monumental undertaking; it stands comparison with the very largest scientific endeavours and is, in its way, the ecology equivalent of the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is added to the air in an oak woodland to measure the ecological response to the atmospheric composition expected by 2050. In every other way the woodland is left undisturbed as the experimental modification runs on – for a decade.”

It is a project involving 20 research groups from across the world. Already, 150 events have brought the pressing issues of climate change and forest resilience to the attention of public, professionals, and education at all levels from primary to university.

The inauguration of BIFoR has also made possible the £1M Leverhulme Trust Doctoral Scholarship Programme called Forest Edge, which is the UK’s biggest single injection of doctoral research into forest research.

In addition, Professor Bradwell has brought the existing forest stands at Norbury Park into management and added over 300 acres of forest planting with new and unusual species mixes. The estate’s commitment to sustainable best practice provides a national exemplar reaching right through the supply chain from new planting to biomass-fuelled combined heat and power and the highly-praised refurbishment of the estate’s 18th-century threshing barn with estate-sourced timber.