6 June 2019

New strategy to protect UK tree diversity

Kew publishes the Strategy for UK Forest Genetic Resources

By Kew Science News

A view through the trees at Wakehurst

Today Lord Gardiner, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Rural Affairs and Biosecurity, launched a Strategy for UK Forest Genetic Resources at the Future Trees Trust’s Supporters Day at Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank at Wakehurst. The Strategy has been published by Kew in collaboration with the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Forest Research, Future Trees Trust and Woodland Trust. 

Genetic diversity, which is variation in DNA among individuals of the same species, is essential to help tree species survive in the face of climate change and new pests and diseases. It is also a valuable national resource that may be used for producing trees with better productivity or disease resistance in the UK climate. 

Produced over a period of two years, and following consultation with a wide range of stakeholders, the Strategy identifies the gaps in knowledge and infrastructure that must be addressed if we are to protect the UK’s Forest Genetic Resources. It prioritises five areas for action: 

  • Collaboration – building a national forum for sharing information and knowledge on FGR
  • Communication – promoting understanding of the value of FGR for trees and people
  • New research on where, how much and what type of genetic diversity we have in our trees.
  • In situ protection: new conservation action to protect distinct populations of trees
  • Ex situ protection: making sure seed from distinct populations of all our tree species are collected and protected, and conservation stands are planted for species whose seeds do not last well.

Claire Trivedi, Conservation Partnership Co-ordinator (UK), said:

"This strategy brings together, for the first time, a unified strategy for understanding and conserving genetic diversity of the UK’s trees and shrubs – a vital component for developing a UK landscape that is resilient to challenges, such as climate change, pests and diseases. This strategy aims to catalyse collaboration, stimulate research and conservation activities and promote the value of genetic diversity in UK trees. Over 20 organisations have already contributed and this is a fantastic foundation for wider and deeper collaboration as we take this initiative forward."

The Strategy itself if just the start. Next steps are to develop an action plan for taking forward the vision and priority actions outlined in the Strategy. 

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