Research Output
A horizon scan of issues affecting UK forest management within 50 years
  Forests are in the spotlight: they are expected to play a pivotal role in our response to society’s greatest challenges, such as the climate and biodiversity crises. Yet, the forests themselves, and the sector that manages them, face a range of interrelated threats and opportunities. Many of these are well understood, even if the solutions remain elusive. However, there are also emerging trends that are currently less widely appreciated. We report here the results of a horizon scan to identify developing issues likely to affect UK forest management within the next 50 years. These are issues that are presently under-recognized but have potential for significant impact across the sector and beyond. As the forest management sector naturally operates over long timescales, the importance of using good foresight is self-evident. We followed a tried-and-tested horizon scanning methodology involving a diverse Expert Panel to collate and prioritize a longlist of 180 issues. The top 15 issues identified are presented in the Graphical Abstract. The issues represent a diverse range of themes, within a spectrum of influences from environmental shocks and perturbations to changing political and socio-economic drivers, with complex emerging interactions between them. The most highly ranked issue was ‘Catastrophic forest ecosystem collapse’, reflecting agreement that not only is such collapse a likely prospect but it would also have huge implications across the sector and wider society. These and many of the other issues are large scale, with far-reaching implications. We must be careful to avoid inaction through being overwhelmed, or indeed to merely focus on ‘easy wins’ without considering broader ramifications. Our responses to each of the challenges and opportunities highlighted must be synergistic and coherent, involving landscape-scale planning. A more adaptive approach to forest management will be essential, encouraging continual innovation and learning. The 15 horizon scan issues presented here are a starting point on which to build further research, prompt debate and action, and develop evidence-based policy and practice. We hope that this stimulates greater recognition of how our forests and sector may need to change to be fit for the future. In some cases, these changes will need to be fundamental and momentous.

  • Type:


  • Date:

    08 November 2023

  • Publication Status:

    In Press

  • DOI:


  • ISSN:


  • Funders:

    Scottish Forestry; Forestry Commission England


Tew, E. R., Ambrose-Oji, B., Beatty, M., Büntgen, U., Butterworth, H., Clover, G., …Sutherland, W. J. (in press). A horizon scan of issues affecting UK forest management within 50 years. Forestry,



horizon scan; forest management; foresight; emerging trends; woodlands

Monthly Views:

Linked Projects

Available Documents