Major gift to boost research into Britain’s depleted forests

Birmingham receives £15 million from former student

November 6, 2013

The University of Birmingham has been given £15 million by an alumnus to study the impact of climate change on forests.

Jo Bradwell, who studied medicine at Birmingham and went on to found a spin-out company specializing in medical tests, said that the UK’s remaining woodland was under serious threat from foreign diseases and changes in the climate.

“The UK has the lowest woodland cover of any large, European country because of deforestation over the centuries,” he said in a statement.

“The new forestry institute will increase our understanding of these challenges in order to help planners, owners and foresters maintain and improve the health of our woods”.

Professor Bradwell was a professor in Birmingham’s Department of Immunology before making his fortune through the Binding Site, a firm he founded in 1983.

The new Institute for Forest Research will comprise laboratories and monitored forests, where scientists can use sensors to take measurements from deep in the soil to high in the forest canopy.

Rob MacKenzie, a professor of atmospheric science in Birmingham’s School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, said: “We want to understand the myriad individual processes that control how a forest landscape will evolve under the pressures of a changing environment.

“Beyond that, we want to observe — and, where possible, manipulate — all the individual processes locked together.

“The new institute will allow just this reach: from the laboratory to the forest, from the biochemistry occurring in a second to the ecology occurring over a decade,” he added.

david.matthews@tsleducation.com

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