Woodlands are facing challenges in the form of rapid climatic change and unprecedented increases in exotic pests and diseases. To combat these problems, it has been proposed that a range of novel exotic tree species (non-native species that have not yet undergone thorough operational testing or previously been grown at a forestry scale) should be grown as part of an adaptive management strategy, and that non-native (including novel) species should be introduced into native woodland.
On the basis of this documented experience we conclude that in the commercial sector of British forestry, where production is the main objective, there are strong arguments for undertaking a programme of rigorous testing and domestication of a very limited number of the most promising novel exotics which have good timber and growth as well as attributes that will allow the development of more naturalistic silvicultural systems and a move away from current clearfell regimes.
However, this must be undertaken within a comprehensive risk assessment framework, where candidate species are rigorously screened both for any biosecurity threats, and their potential cause ecological damage if they become invasive outside their initial planting sites. Widespread planting of candidate species should only be recommended after the completion of full species and provenance trials, and when reliable sources of appropriately adapted seed have been established.
Conversely, where conservation of biodiversity is an objective, we ﬁnd no support for introduction of any non-native species. This is based on the greater ecological and economic risk they pose compared to the use of native species. Use of non-natives may even lead to an increase in pest and disease problems, and hinder the retention of threatened native tree species and their associated biodiversity.