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Richard Whittet


Home staff Richard Whittet

Richard’s role at Forest Research involves management of an extensive network of genetic trials and assessment data. He supports all aspects of the tree improvement work at Forest Research but also provides support and advice to the Conifer Breeding Cooperative and Future Trees Trust.

Richard is interested in genetic variation in forest trees and its response to natural and artificial selection. He aims to strengthen the links from selection and testing to production of high quality germplasm by promoting intensive management of seed orchards to bring pace and flexibility into breeding programmes to promote healthy and productive plantations. He is also keen to explore how tree improvement can harness variation in ‘resilience’ traits to adjust the ecological amplitude of trees where appropriate and to assist in the recovery of trees from biological outbreaks.

The main tree species Richard is currently working on are: Picea sitchensis, Acer pseudoplatanus, Fraxinus excelsior, Pinus sylvestris and Larix spp. although he is involved in work on several others in varying levels of detail.

Richard is currently compiling technical information in order to prepare the UK’s first national report on Forest Genetic Resources, in line with FAO reporting guidelines for the second report on the “State of the World’s Forest Genetic Resources”.

Richard has a BSc in Sustainable Forest Management (Scottish School of Forestry, UHI) and an MSc in Biodiversity and Taxonomy of Plants (Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh/University of Edinburgh) and completed a PhD at the Institute of Evolutionary Biology of University of Edinburgh in 2017, working on the management of forest genetic resources and their responses to climate change.

Richard has worked as an independent researcher on contracts from University College London, Forestry Commission England, Woodland Trust and the Future Trees Trust. He joined Forest Research in August 2018 as project support officer for tree improvement.


National focal point for EUFGIS, the European Information System on Forest Genetic Resources

Deputy national coordinator for EUFORGEN

Member of Future Trees Trust research advisory group

Member of Conifer Breeding Co-operative operations group

Forest Research lead contact for Edinburgh Plant Science

Head of Tree breeding
Forest genetics


Northern Research Station

Bush Estate



Related Publications


Genetic considerations for provenance choice of native trees under climate change in England

This Research Report provides a review of published results from provenance tests of relevance to English native trees to identify factors which may influence the risk, suitability and desirability of the use of local versus non-local seed under climate change.


Peer reviewed journal articles

Peer-reviewed scientific articles

Turner, S., Graham, E., Macphail, R., Duncan, L., Rose, N.L., Yang, H., Whittet, R. and Rosique‐Esplugas, C., 2021. Mercury enrichment in anthrosols and adjacent coastal sediments at a Classic Maya site, Marco Gonzalez, Belize. Geoarchaeology

Rosique-Esplugas, C., Cottrell, J.E., Cavers, S., Whittet, R., Ennos, R.A. 2021. Clinal genetic variation and phenotypic plasticity in leaf phenology, growth and stem form in common ash (Fraxinus excelsior L.), Forestry

Whittet, R., Lopez, G. and Rosique-Esplugas, C. 2021. Mid-rotation variation in growth, form and phenology of sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus L.) provenances in field trials in England, Forestry

Whittet, R., Cavers, S., Cottrell, J., Rosique-Esplugas, C. and Ennos, R. 2017. Substantial variation in timing of pollen production reduces reproductive synchrony between distant populations of Pinus sylvestris L. in Scotland. Ecology and Evolution 7, 5754-5765.

Graham, E., Macphail, R., Turner, S., Crowther, J., Stegemann, J., Arroyo-Kalin, M., Duncan, L., Whittet, R., Rosique, C. and Austin, P., 2017. The Marco Gonzalez Maya site, Ambergris Caye, Belize: Assessing the impact of human activities by examining diachronic processes at the local scale. Quaternary International 437, 115-142.

Graham, E., MacPhail, R., Crowther, J., Turner, S.D., Stegemann, J., Arroyo-Kalin, M., Duncan, L., Austin, P., Whittet, R. and Rosique, C., 2016. Past and Future Earth: Archaeology and Soil Studies on Ambergris Caye, Belize. Archaeology International 19, 97-108.

Whittet, R., Cottrell, J., Cavers, S., Pecurul, M. and Ennos, R. 2016. Supplying trees in an era of environmental uncertainty: identifying challenges faced by the forest nursery sector in Great Britain. Land Use Policy 58, 415-426.

Whittet, R. Cavers, S., Cottrell, J. and Ennos, R. 2016. Seed sourcing for woodland creation in an era of uncertainty: an analysis of the options for Great Britain. Forestry 90, 163-173.

Whittet, R., Hope, J. and Ellis, C. 2015. Open structured woodland and the ecological interpretation of Scotland’s Ancient Woodland Inventory. Scottish Geographical Journal 131, 67-77.

Whittet, R. and Ellis, C. 2013. Critical tests for lichen indicators of woodland ecological continuity. Biological Conservation 168, 19-23.

Technical and popular articles

Whittet, R., Ennos, R., Cavers, S., Cottrell, J. 2019. Genetic considerations for provenance choice of native trees under climate change in England. Forestry Commission Research Report. Forestry Commission, Edinburgh.

Uncredited. Nursery resilience and biosecurity – The dilemma of predicting and meeting demand. Forestry and Timber News, February 2017.

Whittet, R., Ennos, R., Cavers, S. and Cottrell, J. 2016. Deploying our resources: local provenance in practice. Woodwise, Autumn 2016. Woodland Trust.

Whittet, R., Ennos, R., Cavers, S. and Cottrell, J. 2016. Adapt and survive. The origins of genetic variation in native trees and implications for practical management. Woodwise, Autumn 2016. Woodland Trust.

Whittet, R. 2016. Why does Britain import so many native trees and shrubs? Botanical Society of Scotland News. Autumn 2016.