The Future Trees Trust held a Supporters’ Day which saw the launch of the publication of ‘A Strategy for UK Forest Genetic Resources: protecting the UK’s unique diversity of trees and shrubs’ by Clare Trivedi, Conservation Partnership Coordinator at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and the Ash Research Strategy, launched by Nicola Spence, Chief Plant Health Officer for DEFRA .
Tilhill Forestry is a supporter of the Trust and was invited to the event held at the impressive Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew at the Millennium Seed Bank. The event featured guest speakers from across the industry, including Future Trees Trust Chair of Trustees, John Leigh Pemberton, with a welcome from Director of Kew Gardens, Richard Deverell, who spoke highly of the importance of collaboration nationally and globally.
The key note opening by Lord Gardiner, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Rural Affairs & Biosecurity was very informative and referred to our location at the seed bank as the ‘Noah’s Ark’, securing the future of our nation’s trees. He stressed the importance of taking action now in order to protect our plants and trees, because they are the providers of timber, food and vital habitats that not only bring wellbeing, but are important in reducing flooding and pollution and providing much needed recreational space. Lord Gardiner also spoke of the Action Oak campaign to protect trees from pests and diseases. An investment of £37m has been made in plant health since 2012 to address the importance of developing trees to cope with pests, diseases and climate change.
Andrew Heald,Confor asked Lord Gardiner the question: “As the second largest importer of forest products, can you give us some highlights, or hope, that woodland creation can be made easier?”
Lord Gardiner responded in explaining that It is all about the right trees in the right place and draws upon the Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS) and how the scheme will reduce the complexity of the application process. He also stated that we need the tree growers to have confidence that the market is there for them and that we plant more trees than we are committed to.
Lord Gardiner also commented on biosecurity and working together. We need to encourage ‘Grown in Britain’ reduce the scope for unwanted arrivals of pests and diseases. With research we come to better solutions, research is vital. I personally favoured his comments that the nation is onboard and the message from climate change protesters should be part of the action to plant more trees.
The presentation on the Tree Health Resilience Strategy / Ash Research Strategy by Nicola Spence, DEFRA’s Chief Plant Health Officer was incredibly insightful. The strategy was first launched out of the twenty five-year plan. She commented on how we must embrace the industry, which is said to be worth £175 billion. Nicola discussed the preparation for a bid in the spending review for tree health and the importance of talking about trees.
Nicola Spence made some excellent points in looking at the whole system, such as the threats and pathogens, and prohibiting and regulating important species.
It is clear from Nicola’s presentation that collaboration and research have had great success and she mentioned the Asian Longhorn beetle and it’s official eradication, she said we need to understand the pressures on plant health by looking for tolerance and how to get more resilience. It’s not a quick fix and we are building a national plan. We still have a ban on ash imports and it remains a policy objective.
With the heightened news of ash dieback, Nicola discussed the £6m spent on the ash research programme and the importance of ash trees remaining standing. She commented: “If it’s not dead leave it,” and to only fell when unsafe. Nicola said; “Ash dieback has been here longer than we thought, and they live on.” She also encourages people to speak to tree officers and the Forestry Commission and as a plan needs to be devised and approved for each landowner.
Clare Trivedi, Conservation Partnership Coordinator at RBG Kew announced the launch of the UK Forest Genetic Resources Strategy alongside Stephen Cavers from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology. They discussed the key elements of the strategy which was endorsed by DEFRA and many more organisations.
Clare and Stephen’s presentations focused on producing resilient trees and looking wider than the UK due to our many environmental variations. Stephen presented a picture of widespread pollination sweeping across from Europe into the UK, the sheer vastness of the pollen cloud which covered miles (see picture below). Stephen commented “The world is getting more organised in its understanding.”
Clare was clear in the strategy of sharing data, promoting genetic diversity and communicating with policy makers in the collaboration for change.
During the event Tim Rowland, CEO of Future Trees Trust discussed the progress of the Trust, highlighting its need for support from the industry, as well as the government to maintain funding.
Tim referred to the ‘Woodland Wildlife in Crisis’ report, and the fact that we are not planting enough broadleaf for hardwood, and that there will not be enough oak to restore historical buildings such as Notre Dame. He mentioned the importance of the use of wood and making things that can last for decades. In commenting on the work of Future Trees Trust he said: “We are giving nature a helping hand.”
Tim Rowland introduced the Future Trees Trust Researcher, Jo Clark who was inspirational in explaining the Trust’s mission to get improved seed to market for the main commercial broadleaved species. The key aims were to identify the best parents through observation, create seed orchards, bring minor species to market and work with Forest Research and DEFRA to produce ash trees tolerant to Chalara.
The Future Trees Trust are constantly pushing for more seeds and establishing more seed orchards using the highest standard of improved material, and to strengthen their vision to realise the economic, social and environmental benefits of broadleaved woodland.
The National Tree Improvement Strategy (NTIS)was later discussed by Dr Steve Lee who also helped establish the Conifer Breeding Co-Operative. Steve explained the importance of bringing together tree breeders, academics, policy makers, foresters, seed merchants and more, to ensure tree improvement is realised in the best way to retain and enhance a future for our woodlands in terms of productivity, resilience and genetic diversity.
Steve was very clear in their strategy to make sure policy makers encourage planting the best materials, that owners are encouraged and have the confidence to plant more trees, partners are brought together to achieve research goals, and existing and new funders see NTIS making a difference.
The presentations ended with a closing address from the Tree Champion, Sir William Worsley who highlighted the and said: “I would like to thank all the speakers for highlighting the future direction for our trees.
“It’s vital that we all continue this work together as this is a really important agenda and I am a huge believer in the value of partnerships.
“I like working as a team and I think the value of people working together and collaborating is really important.
“This is a group of likeminded experts. This is truly ground-breaking work and we’ve moved on so far because the threat of pests and diseases is significant.
“It’s all about us working together, whether it’s the government, Forestry Commission, the private sector or NGO’s, it’s so encouraging to see the work you are all doing and it’s all about planting good trees.”
After the presentation attendees were given the chance to take a tour of the impressive Millennium Seed Bank whose role is incredibly important, especially because around one in five plant species are estimated to be threatened with extinction worldwide. Seed banks are an effective means of preserving the world’s plants for the future.
We finished the day with a tour of the stunning Wakehurst Place’s woodland estate, which is made up of five hundred acres of the world’s plants in the heart of Sussex.
Read: ‘A Strategy for UK Forest Genetic Resources: protecting the UK’s unique diversity of trees and shrubs.’
Read the Ash Tree Research Strategy 2019.
by Georgina Thomas, Tilhill Forestry Assistant Marketing Manager