With extremely hot summers we have all just experienced in the UK and the very wet winter we can experience beforehand, it is becoming more and more evident that climate change is a reality. This change in weather looks set to be long term and our future species choice will need to be suitable for the next century’s forecast at least.
Whilst history shows us that importing planting stock from abroad can run the risk of bringing new pests and disease, our usual planting mixes and native species may not be able to cope with the changing climates. This then poses a dilemma; what measures should be taken to introduce less temperate species in terms of climate change whilst keeping biosecurity measures in place?
Grants are pushing the planting of purely native species which could be short sighted and lead forestry down a route towards less economically productive and ecologically suitable crops.
The designated ancient woodland of England should indeed remain ‘native’ where the environment allows, but natural selection over the next 100 years will surely start to favour species which are not currently prevalent. In our native and indeed some non-native woodlands, we must think carefully what we do.
As all foresters know, what we plant now will not necessarily benefit us in the ‘here and now’ but it will for our future generations in terms of environment, ecology and economy.
It is not completely black and white as we have a number of exotic species and exotic provenances of trees that are native. Using climate change models we can predict what the climate is likely to be within ranges. This then allows us to match some exotics to our future climate. The question of when should we change will be influenced on crop rotation lengths. The longer the rotation expected then the earlier we should start the transition.