Woodland Collections Conference opens up important questions for future of trees

It’s safe to say that, in the near and more distant future, society will experience great climatic changes, with associated changes in biodiversity, ecosystems and tree health – such as an increased threat from pests and disease, exacerbated by international trade. Earth Trust’s forest and tree collections hold the potential for society to respond to these challenges, through Defra, and with greater speed.

On 15th May 2019, we hosted a group of excellent thinkers in our Fison Barn, all leading members of the forestry community, enthusiastically dedicating their time and energy to important conversations around the genetic, environmental, societal and economic value of tree collections. They specifically addressing the idea of providing access to the research resources and the evidence base needed to advance national strategic thinking.

Earth Trust’s Woodland Collections project aims to find ways to make our forestry resources and the attendant data more accessible and meaningful to a wider audience, with a view to adding to the ongoing conversation about mitigating and adapting to climate change and enhancing bio-security.

The goal of Wednesday’s meeting was to bring together partners and stakeholders who have a potential role in the project, and understand their needs, challenges and aspirations. Important conversations were held on the approach and outcomes of storing and sharing forestry data and how that might impact the way in which the data and tree collections are used in the future.

Earth Trust holds a wealth of detailed forestry information such as statistical information about individual trees, time of flowering and desirability for timber production, together with genetic information and the management and cultivation techniques that have been used to nurture the trees. Earth Trust’s trees have immense potential for future research into a variety of enquiries.

“Perhaps one of the most important questions raised was how do we identify the full extent of this resource’s value, when we do not yet know the questions we may have to be asking in the future?”

This was the case for the ground breaking research undertaken at Earth Trust for the Living Ash Project; the trees that provided the breakthrough had been planted to answer quite different research questions. Such flexibility of forestry assets for future science is vital, as is the accessibility of the evidence base behind them.

It is hoped that this informative event will pave the way for further strategic conversations on the best approach for preserving and sharing the knowledge held within this important collection of woodland.