Community-owned woodland in Aberdeenshire to help shape new nature schemes

Murray Park Community Woodland in Alford
Alan Robertson

Researchers at The James Hutton Institute are working with a community-owned woodland in Aberdeenshire to explore how people can take a greater role in deciding how solutions to the climate and biodiversity crises are used in their local environments.

The project, involving Murray Park Community Woodland in Alford, is one of seven across Europe and Scandinavia as part of £4.6 million international project called “COEVOLVERS”.

The Hutton’s researchers will work with the woodland’s trustees, community groups and other stakeholders, over a period of four years on ways to jointly manage the site, with a strong focus on what are called nature-based solutions, that benefit nature and people while tackling issues like climate change and biodiversity loss.

The James Hutton Institute is an international research centre based in Scotland with more than 400 scientific staff that carry out research to deliver evidence-based solutions for the global challenges facing land and natural resource use. Our research is funded by the Scottish Government: Rural and Environment Science and Analytical Services Division (RESAS) and a range of external funders such as charities, research organisations and international funders.

“High level management of nature-based solution projects can lead to a lack of inclusivity in the management of local natural resources like community woodlands or parks,” says Leanne Townsend, senior social scientist, at the Hutton.

“Through this project, we’re looking to see how that can be changed. We’re looking at how to involve a wider range of local views, how people view and value the nature around them and then how that can feed into decision making and governance, so that both nature and local people benefit.”

Murray Park is a community owned woodland, having been gifted by poet Charles Murray to the people of Alford in 1936. All the other sites in the COEVOLVERS project are either publicly or privately owned, which means it offers a unique opportunity to involve people in the process. The park, an area of mature mixed woodland with paths and walks, is open to the public and welcomes all who want to enjoy nature.

The COEVOLVERS project is being led by the Nature Resources Institute Finland, alongside partner institutes in Germany, Italy, Slovakia, Hungary, Estonia, Spain, Czech Republic and Scotland. It has funding from the European Union’s Europe Framework Programme for Research and Innovation. Leanne is joined by Claire Hardy, Tim Pittaway and Esther Banks, who make up The James Hutton Institute COEVOLVERS team.