B4EST – adaptive breeding for productive, sustainable and resilient forests under climate change
Our changing climate can increase the vulnerability of forests to damage from disease and reduce forest health and productivity. But, it can also have positive effects by offering opportunities for improving productivity and growing trees in previously sub-optimal areas.
B4EST will provide an understanding of how adaptive forest breeding can be used to increase forest survival, health, resilience and productivity under climate change and natural disturbances, while maintaining genetic diversity and key ecological functions.
Working with tree breeders, forest managers and the forest industry B4EST will produce new evidence and operational solutions useful to forest tree breeders, forest owners, managers and policy makers when making flexible long-term decisions.
B4EST will work with eight forest tree species: Norway spruce, Scots pine, maritime pine, black poplar, ash, stone pine, Douglas-fir and eucalypts. For these species the project will re-analyse and assess tree properties from past field trials to select material suitable for use in Europe in the future.
The French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) leads the project that will last for four years and will finish in 2021.
B4EST aims to provide improved scientific knowledge on the adaptation profiles for key tree species, new adaptive tree breeding strategies and tools, and tree genotypes (trees with the same genetic make-up) which are of high adaptive and economic value.
It will also deliver decision support tools for the choice and use of Forest Reproductive Material (FRM) for balancing production, resilience, and genetic diversity. It will also develop management and transfer recommendations for FRM deployment at stand and regional levels.
The project will offer policy recommendations for adaptation of European forest production systems to the challenges posed by climate change and natural disturbance.
The practical goals of B4EST are to:
Diversify the portfolio of FRM at both species and among species levels;
Make the portfolio of FRM accessible to forest managers through secure seed/plant supply, decision tools and recommendations;
Integrate a landscape and a transnational view forest sector analysis of risks, costs and benefits.
Forest Research is leading work assessing key biotic and abiotic factors affecting forest productivity and resilience, with the focus on climate change vulnerabilities and risks. The main tasks in this work are the: delivery of climate change datasets to the project partners, assessment of the genetic variation for tolerance to biotic and abiotic threats, assessment of how tree properties change according to environmental conditions, and modelling of FRM performance under climate change.
We are also involved in work to:
improve the deployment and secure procurement of forest reproductive material (FRM) with high performance and stability under uncertain future conditions;
develop and disseminate decision support to forestry planning for optimal utilisation of improved FRM;
communicate the project and its findings, and to engage stakeholders in its work.