The conifer plantations, managed by the Forestry Commission in England, are dominated by only five species
In both cases these species were chosen because of their high productivity and timber quality, relative to other species that could have been grown on the same site. This is replicated in plantations in other ownerships, established during the same period, and to stands of exotic broadleaves such as the Nothofagus species.
Monoculture is potentially a high-risk strategy. The speed with which Red Band Needle Blight (RBNB), a fungal pathogen of CP and other pines, spread has been attributed mainly to the fact these species are mainly grown in monoculture.
A closer examination of the minor species found within forests, species trials and arboreta, shows us that we can grow a much wider range of species with good timber properties.
Not only do the coniferous plantations of England have limited species diversity, their genetic diversity is limited to a relatively narrow range of origins. All tree breeding and seed collection has been undertaken in the context of the climate of the mid 20th century
The most serious impacts on forest health will be in drought years, particularly in the south and east. Some conifer species will find the increasing moisture deficit a limiting constraint, and by 2050, SS in eastern areas will, on many sites, become considered unsuitable as a productive crop.
Much of the rest of the country is likely to have a climate similar to that currently experienced across north-west France and southern England. Most species that are commonly used for forestry in England have been planted within this geographic range as successful timber crops.