Branching Out aims to develop new ways of mapping, predicting, and communicating social and cultural values to support robust, evidence-based decision making and management of UK Treescapes.

Funding Amount:

£2.32 m

Duration of Project:

3 years

Trees line a street with cars park on the road

Project Summary:

A climate emergency has been declared by 74% of UK local authorities. The Government are responding to this by planting more trees to reduce carbon-dioxide in the air. But it is vital that they also realise the many other benefits that trees can provide, such as health, wellbeing, green infrastructure, and social amenity.

Most studies on urban trees neglect wider social and cultural values that cannot easily be valued. Consequently, we do not meaningfully account for the symbolic, heritage, spiritual, social, and cultural values of treescapes.

This problem is leading to protests arising around individual trees as a result – such as the Sheffield street trees. And pressures from business and housing developments are making the problem worse.

It is clear that local authorities need a vision of future societal needs and the forms of future trees and urban forests that might work.

Branching Out is a new project led by Loughborough University that aims to realise this vision. They will do this by developing new ways of mapping, predicting, and communicating social and cultural values to support robust, evidence-based decision making and management.

“Branching Out is a very exciting project to be part of. Not only do we have the opportunity to make a real difference to the way that social and cultural values of trees are properly considered, leading to fully rounded and informed planning and policy-making. But also to integrate our research in storytelling with environmental and social science expertise, as a way of bringing additional voices and experiences into the public discourse around the future of our urban treescapes.”

– Professor Mike Wilson, Project Lead


This study will explore the social and cultural values of urban trees across York, Cardiff, and Milton Keynes through:

  • Co-production: working with citizens and stakeholders to develop a holistic value framework
  • Storytelling: capturing meaning and value of the past, present and future of tree through narrative accounts
  • Mapping: linking biophysical features with social and cultural values. The team’s approach will map both values that are generalisable and those that are particular and highly situated.

The researchers will also develop detailed maps of the focal cities’ urban treescapes by combining citizen science, urban tree observatories, hyperspectral remote sensing, historic mapping, and amenity modelling – resulting in Europe’s largest, most robust urban tree dataset.

STATUS: Ongoing

Project Lead

Professor Mike Wilson, Director of the Storytelling Academy at Loughborough University


Loughborough University, Forest Research, Open University, University of York, EcoLogos