UK’s famous maples ‘must adapt to climate change’

The collection of Japanese maples at the UK National Arboretum need to adapt in order to survive the impacts of future climate change, a researcher has told a conference examining the problem.

Speaking at PlantNetwork’s “Climate Change and Planting for the Future” gathering, Dr Richard Jinks of Forest Research outlined how the UK Forestry Commission was embarking on a full-scale plan to ensure that the world-famous collection of Japanese maples at Westonbirt, Gloucestershire, could thrive in the future.

A press release from the Forestry Commission explained that an evaluation of these and other trees in the collection would assess their drought tolerance and the best way of helping them adapt to change.

Measures are likely to include succession planting and good horticultural practices to enhance soil moisture levels in dry summers.

There are more than 300 types of maples (acers) in the National Japanese Acer Collection at the National Arboretum.

Each autumn they put on a blazing show of colour, admired by many thousands of visitors from all over the world.

Dr Jinks said many acers thrived on a constant supply of moisture, and the evaluation would highlight how the trees could be susceptible to extended periods of drought.

“These acers are not only stunning trees but also form an important national collection,” he told delegates.

“It is vital that we take stock now and monitor them closely, putting plans in place to safeguard their future.

“We need to propagate and plant new collections now, not only for 50 years time but for far into the future.”

The PlantNetwork conference attracted more than 100 delegates from botanic and historic gardens, government agencies and research institutes.

It was held at the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester from 10-12 September.

Source: Forestry Commission press release

Date: 11/09/2008

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