A British Ecological Society Special Interest Group
From Alan Jones
A stimulating FEG meeting for researchers connected to the Wytham Woods network.
The diversity and reach of research undertaken at Wytham Woods in Oxfordshire became evident during our day’s sharing meeting at the Department of Plant Sciences, Oxford University. The audience comprised over 60 academics, early career researchers – and keenly interested people from conservation organisations, who had arrived from across the UK and Europe with the aim of enhancing research collaboration across our networks.
During the day we learnt greatly about the different aspects of work in Wytham – and the meeting was kicked off with a welcome briefing on the historic ecological importance of Wytham by Peter Savill. Our keynote speaker, Prof. Hans Cornelissen, from VU Amsterdam, introduced many in the audience to a new face, reflecting further the aims of the meeting. He demonstrated the wealth of knowledge that can be learnt by understanding the hidden processes of decomposition on the forest floor, while showing how these link to other aspects of woodland ecology.
From here we worked our way up towards the tree canopy, through each of our three thematic sessions. 17 speakers gave engaging accounts of their work, enlightening the audience about their specialist areas in the Wytham. Evident throughout was how each of these individual research components collectively reveal potential interrelationships between climate, biodiversity, trophic networks and carbon storage. To work these ideas further, we separated into group-led breakout sessions for the afternoon, discussing opportunities and knowledge gaps that might lead to areas of future development. We were treated to some beautiful weather during our breakout session and the Department of Plant Sciences garden became our open air classroom – which further helped inspire these conversations.
The meeting demonstrated how we can all learn better from the knowledge of Wytham’s pool of researchers. By communicating clearly about each other’s work in Wytham’s ‘ecological laboratory’, several project ideas are now in development. The meeting has generated significant further interest, not only for collaborative work within Wytham – but also linking to other forests more widely.