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  Understanding the impacts of woodland creation on land values in England

   School of Energy, Geoscience, Infrastructure and Society

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  Dr N Dunse  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Project Aim

The project aims to enhance our understanding of what the impact is of planting trees on both the value of land in England and the cash flow of landowners.


The Climate Change Committee, which advises the UK and devolved governments on meeting their greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets, has stated that a significant increase in tree-planting is required to manage the climate emergency and achieve the government’s net zero target. The UK Government sees tree planting as having a key role in in achieving net zero emissions by 2050 and committed to increasing tree planting rates to 7,000 hectares per year. There are a series of grants and financial incentives to encourage woodland creation within our rural environment.

It is well documented that trees provide a range of environmental and social benefits including carbon capture, reduced erosion, natural flood management, boost biodiversity, recreational opportunities and public health benefits. They also have economic benefits as demonstrated through enhanced residential property values and benefits to farm businesses such as income generation and improved productivity. However, what has not yet been well researched is how these benefits impact on the land value.

This project aims to help address this through additional collection and economic analysis of information on the financial implications of woodland creation options. This will help provide evidence to underpin further development of a publicly accessible tool to help landowners, potential investors and other stakeholders to assess the expected financial and land value impacts associated with different woodland creation choices. The research methods will be primarily based on quantitative empirical analysis using longitudinal econometric modelling and GIS-based spatial analysis.


You will be supervised by Professor Neil Dunse, a land economist from Heriot-Watt University, Dr Gregory Valatin, an environmental economist, from Forest Research, and Professor Deb Roberts, an agricultural economist, from The James Hutton Institute.

The scholarship sits within The Urban Institute where we provide excellent research supervision and facilities and development opportunities to promote and support PhD research growth. In addition, the PhD student would be expected to engage in a variety of training and activities supported by the School, and throughout the University's Research Futures Academy.

The project is a collaboration with Forest Research and is supported by The James Hutton Institute. Forest Research is the research agency of the Forestry Commission and Great Britain’s principal organisation for forestry and tree-related research. It is internationally renowned for the provision of science, research, evidence, data and services in support of sustainable forestry.

The James Hutton Institute is a globally recognised rural research organisation delivering high quality research to drive the sustainable use of land and natural resources.

A key element of the PhD will involve gaining a critical understanding of land market theory and the latest developments in spatial econometric methods to analyse the changes in the key factors underpinning land values and to predict future prices based on alternative policy scenarios.  


The scholarship will cover tuition fees and provide an annual stipend (£18,622 for 2023-24) for the 42-month duration of the studentship. Thereafter, students will be expected to pay a continuing affiliation fee (currently £130) to cover their continued registration whilst writing up their thesis. 


Successful candidates must be of outstanding academic merit and research potential. Candidates must have a UK first class or 2:1 honours degree at undergraduate or similar international level  We are looking to engage prospective candidates from a wide variety of disciplines including agricultural economics, economics, econometrics, forestry, geography, property studies or other related field.

Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact Professor Neil A Dunse ([Email Address Removed]) to enquire informally about the research project.  


The closing date for applications is 30th June 2023 and applicants must be available to start in September 2023.

How to apply

To apply you must complete our online application form.

Please select PhD Environment as the programme and include the full project title, reference number and supervisor name on your application form. You will also need to provide a CV, a supporting statement (1-5 A4 pages) outlining your suitability and how you would approach the project, a copy of your degree certificate and relevant transcripts and an academic reference.

Candidates whose first language is not English must meet Heriot-Watt University’s English language requirements.

If you have any general queries about the applications process, please contact [Email Address Removed]

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Funding Notes

Heriot-Watt University and Forest Research seeks to offer a PhD scholarship for a student starting their PhD research in September 2023.
The scholarship will cover full tuition fees for 3.5 years as well as providing an annual stipend in line with UKRI recommended levels (currently £18,622) for the 42 months of the project.
An additional research support allowance of £1,500 per annum will be provided.