A variety of research is undertaken within Westonbirt, The National Arboretum and through partnerships with organisations including the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew and the Millennium Seed Bank.
These include phenology trials linking to a European-wide network, taxonomic work and the recording of plant growth, deaths and growth patterns.
Experimenting on a grand scale
Understanding how to manage Westonbirt Arboretum's tree collection to ensure its long term future is a key part of our work.
We need to know which species suit our site conditions and critically which may survive in the future. But tree selection does not just impact on botanical collections; it impacts on our wider forests and the trees in our towns and cities.
Throughout Europe forest managers have to consider what they plant to ensure sustainable forest resources.
What’s happening now?
Thirty different species have been carefully selected for a European species trail based on criteria such as usefulness and ability to survive in a changing climate.
The trial, titled Project Reinfforce, is a partnership between the Forestry Commission, Forest Research, the Atlantic Area Transnational Programme and the European Union. Trials of 30 tree species will take place at 37 locations on the west Atlantic, ranging from the Azores in Portugal to the Isle of Mull in Scotland and including Westonbirt Arboretum.
Each participating site will grow 36 specimens of each species, from three different seed provenances. These seed provenances have been carefully chosen from across the climatic range for each species.
At Westonbirt we are also planting additional species that we think may be particularly useful for British forestry in future. These plots will be situated on the old elm trial plots in Silk Wood (at the top end of Waste Drive at the junction with Oak Avenue).
Recording the outcomes
Monitoring will start in 2014 and is likely to continue for at least 20 years. During this time we will record:
- trends in the health of the different specimens
- seasonal timing of events (phenology) such as bud-burst in spring and shoot extension
- overall growth
- and of course death of species – in fact we
fully expect some species won’t survive!
Scientists will monitor the specimens as they grow as well as collecting weather data for each site.
By pooling the data recorded at all participating sites we will be able to gain a better understanding of how different tree species and seed provenances respond to a range of different climatic conditions.
This information will help forest managers across Britain and Europe to choose species that suit the future climate predicted for their local area; ensuring we safeguard our future forests.