This project will draw on European practitioners' deep knowledge and experience in wood pasture ecosystems to increase the national capacity to engage with wood pasture as a sustainable upland management opportunity.

Funding Amount:

Defra funded

A man in a green jumper and grey trousers stands in front of three trees

Project Summary:

Two cows in a field with trees behindExploring wood pastures for upland UK treescapes

Wood pastures in the UK uplands are areas of ecologically diverse and beautiful landscapes that balance food production, forestry and conservation. These areas combine open woodland with grazing animals such as sheep, cattle or goats and they are tremendously valuable in terms of biodiversity and carbon storage.

Dr Robert Mills will use his time during this project to help define what our uplands might look like over the coming decades, and how we can increase the resilience of rural livelihoods and the wider economy.

He will do this by learning from farmers and land managers across Europe: from the ancient wood pastures of Romania to the mountainous pastures of Switzerland, moving onto the drier climate of Spain and finally finishing with Estonia where wood pastures are a central part of their landscape.

After developing a deep hub of knowledge on wood pastures, he will engage a large range of UK stakeholders who are managing the uplands and seeking new opportunities to tackle the climate and biodiversity crises. And he will translate this knowledge into a policy briefing document for use by the devolved nations and associated conservation and policy teams.


Dr Robert Mills is a biogeochemist, with research interests focusing on mountain ecosystems and their response to environmental change. Dr Mills is interested in how soil organisms cycle carbon and nutrients, and how changing snow cover exerts an effect on energy in mountain ecosystems. Rob’s work uses a range of techniques to probe microbial functions and take advantage of environmental gradients to explore how natural variance in ecosystem processes can shed light on future resilience to change. Field studies are central to Rob’s work, and he has established research sites in European mountain ranges, and has created a global network of alpine study sites exploring the state of soil organic matter.

Twitter: @UniOfYork


STATUS: Ongoing

Project Lead

Dr Robert Mills, University of York


Various European practitioners in wood pasture ecosystems