Protect Our Oaks

Understanding and forecasting causes and consequences. Management for future climates

Work Package Two

Adaptation management strategies and future threats to oak woodlands

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

© Forestry Commission

Summary

Work Package Two is analysing future threats to the health of oak woodlands in the UK and suggesting adaptation strategies which may be used to help oak woodlands better cope with these threats, including the changing climate.

We are producing the following:

Sunshine through mature oaks in spring

Sunshine through mature oaks in spring
© Forestry Commission

  1. A case study of forestry management strategies to mitigate impacts of climate change and make UK forests more resilient. Experiments in Kent and Derbyshire simulate management by climate matching and controlling diversity ranging from genetic diversity to species diversity. We assess the impact of management on associated communities of herbivorous insects and endophytic microbial communities with a focus on the oak pathogen, Oak Powdery Mildew. A report will provide advice on the impact of the forest management strategies tested here on associated biodiversity.
  2. A national (UK) risk map showing the different levels of stress experienced by oak trees under current and future climates;
  3. A list of pests and diseases currently reported on oak worldwide and summary of expert knowledge on each of these e.g. their geographical extent, impact, rate of spread and pathways, and management;
  4. A list of threats associated with native oak species in the UK; with the threats ranked according to their relative significance;
  5. A report on the forest management actions that would help oak woodlands cope with changing climate conditions;
  6. A report on the ‘adaptive management pathways’ to enable adaptation strategies to be taken which reduce any negative impacts on biodiversity and the ecosystem services provided by oak woodlands.

Background

Changing environmental conditions, such as those relating to climate, the poor selection of oak provenances (the region of tree or seed origin) and matching of species to sites, can stress trees making them more susceptible to pests and diseases.

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Young Oak sapling. Galloway
© Forestry Commission

Predictions of where oak woodlands will be stressed, now and under anticipated future climates are fundamental to forest management ‘adaptation strategies’. These strategies aim to help oak woodlands better cope with future environmental changes.

Suggested adaptation strategies for woodlands include changing the age structure of the trees, the balance of the different species planted, and their genetic diversity, or alternatively, changing the species and the provenance of the trees planted.

If the adaptation strategy is planting of alternative oak provenances and tree species, we will use climate matching tools to identify locations across the world which have similar climatic conditions to those anticipated in the future at oak woodland sites in the UK.

These locations can be used to indicate areas where trees may be sourced for planting at UK woodlands sites to enable them to better cope with future climate conditions – so called ‘climate matching’.

Moving plants and trees however brings the risk of the accidental spread of pest and diseases. Horizon scanning for new threats needs to be conducted so as to provide evidence to ensure new adaptation policies and practices take into account these threats.

Further details about the work.

Participants

The team involved in WP2:

Associates

  • Elsa Field, Oxford University