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Current recommendations on seed source for adaptation to Climate Change

Current advice from Forestry Commission England when choosing origins for planting stock is taken from Forest Research Information note 086, 'the role of forest genetic resources in helping British forests respond to climate change', FCRN ‘Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation in England's Woodlands’ and the Forestry Commission Practice guide ‘Managing Ancient and Native Woodland in England’.    

It is recommend a portfolio approach is taken where biodiversity is the prime objective, and to plant a mix of provenances alongside the current population. The recommendations are that

  • natural regeneration is encouraged, however where there is a low chance of successful regeneration, then planting will be required.
  • seed must not be collected from a small number of seed trees as this can give a narrow genetic base.
  • Seed from the same region of provenance should make up a third of the planting stock and if timber is an objective then a significant portion of the restocking should be with improved planting stock from qualified or tested stands.
  • at least one source of seed from slightly warmer climates sources from 2 to 5° of latitude further south than the site is used. Eastern European sources should generally be avoided as they have proved unsuitable to England.

 Where timber production is high in the woodland objectives or the planting is not adjacent to a site recognised for its local genetic integrity then it is recommended that depending on the owners view towards accepting risk that an assisted migration approach be followed

5yr oak Jinks

  • Provenances from 2º south of the growing site generally outperform the local provenances and this is considered a safe distance over which to transfer material.
  • Provenances from up to 5 º south match to current climate change predictions to 2050 but do carry risk from frost and possible maladaptation.


Picture: 5 year old Quercus robur, seed sourced from select stand from the Loire area growing at Alice Holt

Diagram showing assisted migration of native trees


Keeping new woodlands healthy

The UK is in an unprecedented period of new pests and diseases. Information on current issues can be found on our tree pests and diseases pages.

 Most of our current pests and diseases have arrived on imported live plant material. It is essential that we keep diseases out of the country. Customers must have discussions with their forest nurseries to ascertain where the trees are grown and should seek assurances of the health and vigour of the plants. Keep good records of where you sourced your trees from, where and when you received your plants.

 Good healthy vigorous stocks, in the right soils and in the right climatic environment are likely to be more robust to pests and diseases. Consider using a diverse mix of appropriate species to reduce the reliance on any one species.

“Acts of creation are ordinarily reserved for gods and poets. To plant a pine, one need only own a shovel”.-- Aldo Leopold

Last updated: 10th February 2016