Marteloscope Project

“Learning by Doing”. Tree marker training in a marteloscope. Photo credit: Jakob Derks/EFI

Course SR-02 | Integrate Darnaway
Tree Marker Training for Timber Quality and Biodiversity Values

A pioneering forestry education project gains support from Vastern Timber’s 1% Woodland Tax Fund. 


Sustainable forest management in Britain must balance environmental, economic and social values. Increasingly foresters must integrate many factors to maintain timber production while preserving the ecosystem functions within individual forest stands. One of the best approaches to emerge that delivers this balance is called Continuous Cover Forestry (CCF). This involves decisions at the individual tree level. The selection of trees to retain and trees to remove at each management intervention is called “tree marking” and is a key skill in the training and development of foresters. It is through tree marking that foresters can link their planning and design work with action that brings about change in the forest.  

The Marteloscope Concept

The INTEGRATE DARNAWAY Project involves setting up two large (1 ha) training plots, called Marteloscopes. These plots will be known as Darnaway 1 and Darnaway 2, and they will be selected to represent different forest stand types and species compositions. Trees in each plot will be mapped and scored in great detail for timber quality and biodiversity values. Data will be uploaded to the project server for formatting and analysis, then downloaded onto tablet computers using bespoke “I+ software”. Students will learn how to manage woodland through virtual selection of trees to thin out and achieve a variety of objectives. The challenge might be to maximise the biodiversity of the site, it may be to provide a sustainable supply of high quality timber, or a blend of these objectives and more. Results from training exercises will provide a foundation for group discussions and shared learning.

Basic design of a marteloscope. The plot is 100×100 m. Every tree is mapped and measured in detail to consider economic, ecological and environmental values. Special software enables students to determine different management pathways and solutions to meet a range of forest management objectives or scenarios. Diagram created by Danika Kersten/European Forest Institute.

Darnaway Forest

Darnaway Forest in Moray, Scotland has a long history as a centre for forestry education.  It has a mix of ancient woodland and long established plantations that provides complexity and a variety of woodland types. For decades many hundreds of forestry undergraduates from Aberdeen, Bangor and other universities visited the forest to prepare woodland management plans.  Every year forestry students from the Scottish School of Forestry (University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI)) attend field visits within the forest to learn about applied silviculture.

Darnaway Forest contains a diverse mix of forest types, including extensive areas of conifer plantations, mixed-broadleaf woodland and ancient, native woodland. A long history and tradition in forestry education makes this the ideal location for the first Integrate Marteloscope in the UK. Photo credit: © 2012 E. R. Wilson/Silviculture Research.

The Project

The INTEGRATE DARNAWAY project brings leading edge innovations in forestry education. Marteloscopes are great places to test out ideas and discuss forest management and silviculture. They are a fantastic tool for “learning by doing”.  They can be a venue to really hone the skills of practising foresters and places to introduce silvicultural concepts to non-foresters. The need to recruit new foresters for the future is a more recent challenge. So the project recognises the value of a training area to enthuse and spark an interest in silviculture and forestry management starting from school aged students to those in their early forestry careers and beyond.

The INTEGRATE DARNAWAY marteloscopes will be the first of their kind in the UK and will form part of the Europe-wide Integrate Network.

Project Planning

A steering committee has been formed to deliver the project. This includes Moray Estates, Silviculture Research, Scottish School of Forestry (UHI), European Forest Institute (EFI), Sylvatic and BE-ST. The marteloscopes will be established using a protocol and “I+ software” developed by EFI. The marteloscopes will be set up in the first half of 2023, with students being trained to assist with the initial fieldwork. A “train the trainers” event will follow. Formal training events will be launched from early summer 2023. The INTEGRATE DARNAWAY marteloscopes will be the first of their kind in the UK and will form part of the Europe-wide Integrate Network of marteloscopes. Financial support from Vastern Timber through their 1% Woodland Tax Fund is greatly appreciated and has made it possible for us to initiate this pioneering skills and education project. Further support is being sought to fully develop the project, learning resources and to deliver individual training events.

Data from the plot inventory is uploaded and processed by colleagues at EFI and then downloaded to tablet computers. Each team of students has a tablet so that they can make real-time virtual decisions about trees to retain and trees to remove. A results output is available immediately on completing the tree marking exercise, which forms the basis for evaluation of marking decisions and discussions among other groups. The software allows for adaptation of management scenarios, with varying degrees of complexity, to meet the needs of non-foresters, students and professional practitioners. Photo credit: Jakob Derks/EFI.

Project Development

Updates and information about forthcoming training events will be posted in early 2023.

Funding and Support

We are most grateful to Vastern Timber Ltd for funding and support.

The project is forestry education initiative of Moray Estates.

Further Reading

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