OXFORD, England, August 18 /PRNewswire/ --

This summer, Wytham Woods near Oxford in the UK will become the European hub of an ambitious global research programme into the impacts of climate change on forests.

Earthwatch, the international environmental charity, is pleased to announce the opening of its Europe Regional Climate Centre* as part of the HSBC Climate Partnership. Formed in 2007, the partnership brings together HSBC, the Climate Group, Earthwatch, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and WWF to tackle the urgent threat of climate change on people, water, forests and cities.

The Climate Centre will be the base for a five-year climate change and forestry research programme. It is one of five centres throughout the world. The others are located in Brazil, India, China and North America.

Teams of HSBC employees from all over Europe and members of the Oxfordshire community will spend time working alongside scientists at Wytham Woods. They will look at many aspects of forest ecology from the flow of carbon within woodlands to the response of populations of small mammals and insects to changes in weather patterns. Between them, the teams will clock up an impressive 40,000 hours of field work, equivalent to a single scientist working alone for 21 years.

Earthwatch's Field Director Rowan Byrne is heading up a team of local staff at the Climate Centre. He explains the regional importance of the research programme. "Here in Oxfordshire, we live on a floodplain. Forests play a crucial role in reducing the impacts of heavy rainfall and protecting vulnerable communities from the worst impacts of flooding, by holding water in the landscape and releasing it slowly. As extreme flooding events are predicted to become more frequent in a changing climate, it is increasingly important that we maintain our already heavily impacted forests in as healthy a state as possible."

The research that will be carried out in Wytham Woods fits into a wider global research programme and results will be shared with scientists and forest managers. Dr. Dan Bebber, Head of Climate Change Research at Earthwatch explains: "Oxfordshire's woodlands are typical of many temperate European forests. They have been heavily impacted by forestry and agriculture over the years, potentially rendering them vulnerable to climate change. The data that we gather here in Oxfordshire will be relevant to similar forests throughout northern Europe and will help us to predict how these ecosystems will respond to climate change."

Research carried out at the four other Climate Centres will be used similarly in other global regions.

*Earthwatch is running the research programme at the European Regional Climate Centre with local partners the Environmental Change Institute (ECI) the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) and Oxford University's Wildlife and Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU).

Editor's Notes:

HSBC Climate Partnership - http://www.hsbc.com/climatepartnership

The HSBC Climate Partnership (HCP) is a $100 million, five-year partnership funded by HSBC, working with the Climate Group, the Earthwatch Institute, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and WWF. Launched in May 2007, the HCP will:

- make some of the world's great cities - Hong Kong, London, Mumbai, New York and Shanghai - cleaner and greener, which the partners will promote as models for the world; - create 'climate champions' worldwide who will undertake field research and bring back valuable knowledge and experience to their communities; - conduct the largest ever field experiment on the world's forests to measure carbon and the effects of climate change; and - help to protect four of the world's major rivers - the Amazon, Ganges, Thames, and Yangtze - from the impacts of climate change, benefiting the 450 million people who rely on them.

For more information, please visit http://www.hsbc.com/climatepartnership.


Earthwatch Institute (Europe) is an international environmental charity engaging people worldwide in scientific field research and education to promote the nderstanding and action necessary for a sustainable environment.


As part of the HSBC Climate Partnership, Earthwatch is carrying out a programme of forest research in five locations worldwide. Research will determine how we can best manage forests to reduce the negative impacts of climate change.

Earthwatch and HSBC have developed the largest known employee engagement programme on climate change, which aims to motivate over 100,000 people to take action. The programme includes online learning, local volunteering projects and a two-week field programme on climate change and its implications for business.


Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

The Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) is the UK's Centre of Excellence for research in the land and freshwater environmental sciences. CEH is a wholly-owned research centre of the Natural Environment Research Council and employs around 500 staff at six major sites in England, Scotland and Wales with an overall budget of about GBP35m. CEH science covers three core areas of expertise, Biodiversity, Water and Biogeochemistry with a major cross-cutting activity focusing on Environmental Informatics. CEH tackles complex environmental challenges through integrated research, aiming to deliver practicable solutions to help preserve our environment for future generations.

For more information, interviews and images, please contact Jo Croft PR and Communications Officer - Earthwatch Europe +44(0)1865-318852 jcroft@earthwatch.org.uk

For more information, interviews and images, please contact Jo Croft, PR and Communications Officer - Earthwatch Europe, +44(0)1865-318852 / +44(0)7981-682871, jcroft@earthwatch.org.uk