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Professor Alison Hester, head of safe guarding


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Natural Capital Team, James Hutton Institute

Published in: Environment
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Professor Alison Hester, head of safe guarding

  1. 1. How can research contribute to future resilient landscapes? Case studies from woodland habitats Alison Hester, Ruth Mitchell, Alice Broome
  2. 2. Talk structure • Primary research – what, where, when, why, how…? • Synthesis – bringing together different research findings to draw common conclusions and identify gaps • Advice/recommendations – what can we recommend and with what degree of confidence?
  3. 3. 1. Primary research – contribution to future resilient landscapes • Direct impacts of pathogen on ‘host’ tree(s); presence of resistant genotypes; cures (e.g. garlic & sudden oak death) • Wider impacts – dependent species; other ecosystem functions (e.g. nutrient cycling); ‘alternative’ tree species? • Factors affecting infection and spread – global transport of seedlings (etc); spatial distribution/condition of trees; habitat configuration within the wider landscape… * Red colour = examples I will show today
  4. 4. 1a. Primary research – dependent species / ecosystem function Both require intensive, field and lab based measurements…  e.g. the species databases we examined (for tree species use) have >1.2 million UK field records for lichens (BLS) and >1 million for fungi (FRDBI)  e.g. for ecosystem functions of ash, we found 420 published field/lab studies on this topic
  5. 5. 1b. Primary research – habitat configuration within the landscape • Requires spatial data collection – air photos/satellite, field survey then spatial modelling • e.g. how connected are our forests at present? (Gimona et al, JHI) • Implications for species spread (good and bad) Landscape permeability to forest species Present-day connectivity potential 90th percentile 75th percentile Potential Current Broadleaved Woodland
  6. 6. 2. Synthesis – contribution to future resilient landscapes • Data collation – hugely important for providing best available information and levels of confidence – examples: Collation of individual studies into a searchable database – e.g. JHI ash database – example outputs: species most at risk if host tree declines; ‘alternative’ host tree species Meta-analysis of published studies – e.g. tree resilience to different pathogens; ecosystem functions of different tree species... • Future projections – speed of spread; likelihood of resistance developing; impacts of climate change …
  7. 7. 2a. Synthesis: AshEcol Database (MS Access) Can create such a database for any tree species … – critically important to assess potential impacts of other pathogens on UK native tree species, e.g.: • Oaks: oak processionary moth (Thaumetopoea processionea ), Phytopthora (Phytophthora quercina) • Oak, beech: Phytopthora (P. ramorum & P Kernoviae) • Elm: Dutch elm disease (Ophiostoma novo-ulmi) • Scots pine: needle blight (Dothistroma septosporum), pine pitch canker (Fusarium circinatum), pine processionary moth (Thaumetopoea pityocampa), pine wood nematode (Bursaphelenchus xylophilus ) • Ash: emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis).
  8. 8. -> AshEcol: numbers of ash-associated species Group Level of association with F. excelsior High Partial Cosmopolitan Uses Bird 7 5 Bryophyte 6 30 10 12 Fungi 30 38 Invertebrate 53 36 19 131 Lichen 17 231 294 6 Mammal 1 2 25 Total 106 343 330 174 * Plus 78 vascular plants & other birds/mammals that use habitat not tree
  9. 9. -> AshEcol - species most at risk from loss of ash Species group Impact of Ash dieback Red Amber Yellow Green Bird 0 3 4 5 Bryophyte 6 3 39 10 Fungi 30 1 37 0 Invertebrate 53 73 94 19 Lichens 17 45 190 294 Mammals 0 7 19 2  Takes conservation status into account  Can also be assessed by location/ species distribution/ presence of alternative ‘host’ tree species
  10. 10. 2b. Synthesis - alternative tree species, both as ‘hosts’ and to ‘replace’ ecosystem function? Alternative species if ash is lost? Decompos-ition Litter quality Nutrient cycling No. of a-a species Acer campestre Acer pseudoplatanus Alnus glutinosa Betula pubescens/pendula Fagus sylvatica Juglans regia Populus tremula Prunus avium Quercus robur/petraea Sorbus aucuparia Tilia cordata Most suitable alternative Intermediate alternative Least suitable alternative NB these conclusions are dependent on available data – in some cases there are few or no data and this must be explicit, to indicate confidence level…
  11. 11. 2c. Synthesis – impacts of climate change – tree health • Site conditions (now and into the future) are critical for tree health – trees under stress are more vulnerable to pests and pathogens • Data synthesis examples (Broadmeadow & Ray 2005 - FR):
  12. 12. -> wider landscape issues and climate change – habitat networks for species movement? Potential loss due to agric. Landscape permeability to forest species intensification Potential loss due to agric. intensification Gimona et al (2012) Landscape permeability to forest species Present-day connectivity potential 2050s projection – Climate & Land Use Change 90th percentile 75th percentile Current Broadleaved Woodland 90th percentile 75th percentile Potential Loss of connectivity Present-day connectivity potential 2050s projection – Climate & Land Use Change 90th percentile 75th percentile Current Broadleaved Woodland 90th percentile 75th percentile Potential Loss of connectivity Source: Gimona et al - JHI
  13. 13. 3. Advice & recommendations - future resilient landscapes • Simplified searchable databases for woodland managers – best available information for each pathogen/tree species • Woodland management guidance for areas vulnerable to loss of trees due to pathogen attack e.g.: Which tree species are best alternative hosts? Are tree species mixtures better than single species? Protocols for assessing different management methods to reduce damage/aid recovery at different sites • Wider landscape context - spatial modelling and analysis
  14. 14. 3a. Alternative tree species as hosts? – examples for ash-associated species • Some tree alternatives only ‘good hosts’ for certain groups of ash-associated species • Conifers generally not “good” for ash-associated species • Oak ‘good host’ for many ash-associated species
  15. 15. 3b. Advice - are mixtures of species better than single species? 19 tree species = 91.6% Corylus avellana = 86% Fraxinus ornus = 83.6% Ulmus procera/glabra = 78.6% Quercus robur/petraea = 68.5% • YES – mixtures will support the greatest number of species • YES – other research (Ray et al – FR) has also shown reduced pathogen attack in mixed forests • BUT: site conditions need to be suitable for species selected • AND ecosystem function also needs to be considered…
  16. 16. 3b. Five step process to assess different site management options 1. Assess biodiversity of site (desk study – site records, NBN database…) 2. Short list priority species for conservation (AshEcol database) 3. Identify alternative tree and shrub species that could support the ash-associated species if ash is lost (AshEcol) 4. Assess site conditions on the ground – trees present, etc 5. Assess management options 15 case study sites
  17. 17. -> Case study summary: vulnerable species; alternative trees and shrubs Number of sites 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0 <10 10 - 49 50 - 99 100 - 149 Number of vulnerable species a. Species vulnerable to loss of ash: Half the case study sites had 50+ species vulnerable to loss of ash b. Status of alternative trees and shrub species: Most case study sites had alternative ‘host’ trees and shrubs present, but often at low abundance
  18. 18. -> Case study summary: management options to aid persistence of ash-associated biodiversity if ash is lost Site ID Current management New management Encourage natural regeneration Introduce species by planting 1 min intervention no change X 2 min intervention no change X 5 min intervention no change X 13 min intervention no change X 8 coppicing no change X 7 coppicing no change X 14 thinning no change X 12 limited coppicing thinning/small patch felling X 15 min intervention thinning / group felling X 4 limited coppicing small patch felling X 6 min intervention thinning / group felling X 11 limited coppicing increase extent of coppicing X 9 min intervention group felling X 3 min intervention group felling X 10 min intervention group felling X Increasing change in site management photo R Harmer photo M Mackinnon
  19. 19. Summary • Research synthesis to provide ‘best available information’, level of confidence and gaps should underpin management decisions on tree health and future resilient landscapes • We have powerful analysis tools and can readily do this for different pathogens and different tree species….NOW • Pathogens can have rapid and devastating impacts on our species and landscapes – if we wait until there is an ‘impact’, it is often ‘too late’ to have much effect…. Pathogens are not always predictable!
  20. 20. Thank you Ash project team: • The James Hutton Institute • Forest Research • Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh • University of Aberdeen • RSPB • Independent Bryologist Funders: • Defra • DoE Northern Ireland • Forestry Commission • JNCC • Natural England • Natural Resources Wales • Scottish Natural Heritage