Impacts of woodland creation on carbon and livelihoods in the Peak District, UK

Grantham Scholar Suma Mani’s project address the trade-offs between naturally regenerated and planted woodlands in the Peak District in relation to ‘carbon forests’. 

Background to the project

The Net zero emissions 2050 targets of the UK call for woodland creation for climate change mitigation. The Peak District National Park has been subjected to several tree-planting programmes in the last few decades. Woodland creation and restoration involves various organisations, landowners, land managers and farmers. Examples include programmes such as the Clough Woodland Project, rewilding through natural regeneration, Nature Recovery Networks, and woodland creation using several grants and schemes. 

Current restoration projects are happening within the context of more ambitious projects in the pipeline. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals place competing demands on land use, e.g. tensions in land use for carbon sequestration versus food production. The scientific benefits of planting trees for climate change are well characterised. However, there remain significant economic, cultural, and social barriers to change in land use from pastureland to woodland. It is a classic ‘wicked problem’, sitting at the nexus of SDGs relating to food production, climate mitigation and life on land. Additionally, effects of land-use change on soil carbon stocks are of concern in international policy agendas to mitigate greenhouse gases.

Suma Mani’s project

The goal of this PhD is to throw light on the different understandings of rewilding or a ‘wilder’ Peak District within stakeholder groups. By using stakeholder interviews and frameworks borrowed from the social sciences, Suma aims to analyse opportunities and constraints for woodland creation and power dynamics within partnerships in woodland creation. Plus she will examine the impacts of woodland creation on livelihoods with the introduction of Environmental Land Management Scheme. Also, the research focuses on recording changes in soil carbon because of woodland creation on pastureland and its significance for climate change mitigation in the UK.


Decolonising research guide for PhD researchers. Suma Mani and a group of Grantham Scholars create a guide to help decolonise PhD research. Suma and her group were shortlisted for ‘Outstanding Contribution to Postgraduate Student Diversity’ for their decolonisation work.

In 2021, Suma and 6 other Grantham Scholars went to COP26 as official observers for the University of Sheffield. Before COP we spoke to each of them about their hopes and fears for this pivotal event.

As part of the Festival of Social Sciences at The University of Sheffield, Suma took part in a story-telling exercise. Along with her fellow Grantham Scholars, she learned how to tell a story from her research. Read more here: Tales from the Global South. Or you can watch Suma’s tale on our YouTube channel

Suma explains why a paper on the evolution of different types of photosynthesis could help feed the growing global population. Read: Interplay of photosynthesis and evolution: paper summary.

Suma Mani’s publications

Mani, S., Osborne, C. P., & Cleaver, F. (2021). Land degradation in South Africa: Justice and climate change in tension. People and Nature.

In January 2021, Suma contributed to POSTnote 636 Woodland Creation, an overview of factors influencing woodland carbon uptake. Plus it looks at the different objectives of woodland creation, constraints to increasing UK tree cover and finance options.

Rodrigo León Cordero, Suma M, Siddhartha Krishnan, Chris T. Bauch, Madhur Anand (2018) Elements of indigenous socio-ecological knowledge show resilience despite ecosystem changes in the forest-grassland mosaics of the Nilgiri Hills, India. Palgrave Communications Volume 4, Article number: 105 (2018)



Professor Frances Cleaver

Lancaster Environment Centre, University of Lancaster