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Climate matching and provenance choice

Climate matching involves identifying regions that currently have climates we anticipate experiencing in the UK in 50 – 100 years time. On a practical level this enables us to source tree stocks from a different location -different provenances – which may be better adapted than existing genetic stock to future climatic conditions. The planting of mixed provenance and mixed species forests is also considered to be a good management strategy but little is known about its true potential for success in terms of growth, productivity, health and associated biodiversity.

The provenance trial at Hucking in Kent is one of a series of studies that has planted trees from different provenances in order to assess their performance. For each species and provenance planted the project will examine:

  • The growth and survival rates
  • The phenology (timing of different phases of growth, e.g. bud-burst)
  • The incidence of herbivorous insects and other pests/diseases

The results will help to inform future decisions on which species to plant, from where and in which planting configurations.

Provenances and species choice

Climate matching analysis determined that the climate in Kent projected by models is likely to be similar to that of Northern France in 2050 and to that of specific regions of Central Italy in 2080.

Three tree species native to Britain – Oak, Wild Cherry and Ash – and one naturalised (Sweet Chestnut) were used for the experiment. Seedlings of each species were sourced from nurseries in Kent, Northern France and Southern Italy. Sweet Chestnut was not sourced from Kent as it is a naturalised and not a truly UK native species.

All trees in the experiment were imported and planted prior to the UK outbreak of Chalara fraxinea (Ash Dieback). Ash trees in the project were subsequently checked for the disease and none were found to be infected. Monitoring for the disease is ongoing.