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The Giant North American Redwood - the world’s biggest growing tree - could be a possible answer to the climate change threat facing the Welsh forests.
Latest predictions revealed by FUTUREforest show that Wales is forecast to become increasingly warm with more droughts - making it harder for some of our existing trees to survive.
Now, as well as increasing the area of Wales covered with native tree species, Forestry Commission Wales is looking at exotic species such as the Giant Redwood (Sequoias), Macedonian Pine and Western Red Cedar.
“Changes in climate are going to create more opportunities for forestry as well as threats,” said Richard Carrick, one of the Forestry Commission Wales foresters working on the international FUTUREforest project.
“The Giant Redwood is a long shot, but it is fast growing and could provide a drought tolerant alternative which can cope with predicted climate changes in Wales and produce high quality timber,” he said.
The team of experts from the EU INTERREG IVC and Welsh Assembly sponsored project are set on making a seismic shift in the thinking on climate – showing how the challenges can provide new ways for forests to help society tackle climate change.
FUTUREforest - a seven nation project looking at climate change and the key role trees and forests play - believes that by working together it has found how forests can best help combat that change and adapt our forests to it.
“A number of tree species are already threatened by a range of pests and diseases in Wales,” said Richard. “Monoculture plantation forests are the most at risk as the climate changes, they are the least well equipped to cope with change and the most at risk.
“So we will certainly be planning replacement species for those which are threatened, and we are looking at whole range of options because trees do offer cost effective solutions to protecting society from the effects of climate change.”
Increasing frequency of severe weather conditions is already beginning to make an impact and with more frequent flooding, drought, soil erosion, and higher temperatures predicted all existing trees will come under increasing threat.
But FUTUREforest has brought together all the latest thinking on water management, natural risk, timber production, carbon management, soil protection and biodiversity, identifying best practice based on their shared knowledge.
“How we manage the forests in future is critical,” said the Welsh team’s project manager from Forestry Commission Wales, Dr Helen Cariss.
“Changing the nature of our forests takes many decades and we have to consider how we will replace those trees that are most at risk – pines, larch, spruce and oak.
“Problems associated with some of our species, such as that with Oak decline, are less clear but climatic changes may be contributing and we need to research ways to ensure our native woodlands are better protected in the future.
“Which is why the work Richard and the team is doing is so important not just to our own thinking for the way forward, but for that of our partners across Europe,” she said.
Forestry Commission Wales, which sponsors FUTUREforest in Wales, is working with researchers to develop guidelines on forest management and tree species.
Meanwhile experts from the other partner regions Auvergne, France (biodiversity); Brandenburg, Germany (knowledge transfer); Bulgaria (soil protection); Catalonia (natural risks); Latvia (timber production); Slovakia (carbon management) are also looking at using similar strategies to protect their forests and highlight the importance of creating and managing more diverse forests as the best strategy in protecting existing forests, improving the environment and saving the planet.
Helen Cariss, FUTUREforest, Wales project manager – Tel: 0300 068 0087.
Guy Pargeter, Taliesin Communications – Tel: 01970 832375
FUTUREforest is a three year INTERREG IVC programme funded by the EU and the Welsh Assembly government. It aims to identify the threats, weaknesses and strengths of Europe’s forest as they face up to climate change; developing best management techniques to guide policy makers and stakeholders.
It also aims to improve and adapt regional and local forest management policies and practices focusing on water balance, soil, biodiversity, timber and non-timber forest products, air quality including carbon sequestration, and natural risk like fires, pests and pathogens.
The objective is to improve the effectiveness of regional development policies and contribute to the economic modernisation and increased competitiveness of Europe through exchange, sharing and transfer of policy experience, knowledge and good practices in woodland management.
The project will provide political decision makers and other stakeholders in European regions with the knowledge, tools and approaches to enable effective forestry/regional development policies and forest management practices.
It also intends to identify opportunities resulting from climate change including increased biomass production - and therefore carbon sequestration - due to changes in rainfall pattern and higher temperatures.
The partners include Auvergne, France (biodiversity); Brandenburg, Germany (knowledge transfer); Bulgaria (soil protection); Catalonia (natural risks); Latvia (timber production); Slovakia (carbon sequestration)
Forestry Commission Wales is responsible for FUTUREforest in Wales. It is the government department responsible for forestry policy and manages the 320,000 acres (130,000 ha) of public forests owned by the Welsh Assembly Government.
More information on the woodlands of Wales is available on www.forestry.gov.uk/wales