Branching out for global conservation at Silverknowes
Edinburgh volunteers will have their spades at the ready on Friday, December 1, as they take to Silverknowes Golf Course to boost international conservation efforts and move towards making the capital a greener place by planting a batch of wild origin conifers, seldom seen outside the boundaries of formal gardens in the UK.
A specially selected batch of young silver fir (Abies alba), western larch (Larix occidentalis), and Saxegothaea conspicua plants will be moved from the extensive nursery at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) as part of the Million Trees City project and support international ex-situ conservation efforts for plants requiring further scientific and horticultural research, as part of a large metacollection, to preserve genetic diversity and act as a safeguard to future catastrophic events in their natural habitat.
The planting, which also marks National Tree Week, is being undertaken by Edinburgh & Lothians Greenspace Trust (ELGT) in partnership with RBGE’s International Conifer Conservation Project (ICCP). To ensure due diligence, a Memorandum of Understanding is in place, laying out the shared commitment to ensure the young specimens will be carefully tended – including being protected from nibbling by deer.
Underscoring the importance of the initiative, Dr Hannah Wilson, Head of the ICCP, explained: “Think of conifers in their natural habitat and it is easy to imagine acres of thriving trees, but this is not necessarily the case. Many are now endangered in their natural habitats, and some are at serious risk of extinction. The threats to different species can be as wide ranging as logging, fire, typhoons, urbanisation and landslides. On top of that, the increasing pressures from changing weather patterns and the frequency of severe weather events associated with climate change are impacting many species’ ability to recover without intervention.
“Ex-situ conservation has an important role to play. Around the world we team up with in-country conservation partners to collect seed, being careful to ensure wild populations are not placed at additional risk, bring the seeds back to Scotland to be grown on, then distribute young plants to safe sites around the UK and Ireland. Planting known origin specimens plays an important role in safeguarding genetic diversity and safe sites such as Silverknowes are a crucial part of our work.”
Leading the initiative for ELGT, Charlie Cumming, CEO, added: “There is a real synergy between the conservation undertakings of the ICCP and our own ambitions to increase the number of trees in urban Edinburgh from 750 thousand to one million, working towards being carbon neutral by 2030.
“Around the world, conifers are both ecologically and economically important. They provide timber products for construction, livelihoods for communities and habitats for countless species of animal. Yet, a third of conifer species are under real threat. By providing space to grow these endangered trees alongside our own native species, we can contribute to international conservation while making our city a greener and better place. Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, they provide homes for wildlife and contribute hugely to the health and well-being of people in the city.”
This week’s activity is part of an ongoing initiative between the City of Edinburgh Council and the botanic garden. The current phase of the Million Trees City project is seeing some 400 trees planted around the capital. Other ICCP input will include a small number of Brewer’s spruce (Picea breweriana) at Little France Park Leith Links.
For further information, interviews, images or to attend the planting ceremony please respond to this email or contact Shauna Hay on 07824 529 028 or Suzie Huggins on 07385 491 460
The International Conifer Conservation Programme was established at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh in 1991. It combines taxonomic, conservation, genetic and horticultural research with international capacity building to further conifer conservation.
Activities cover all aspects of conservation, including basic inventory work in poorly known or remote areas, the establishment of new protected areas, restoration of degraded forests and depleted populations. Programmes are developed for sustainable utilisation, ex-situ conservation, propagation and basic taxonomic research describing new species and revising poorly known groups, such as the Podocarpaceae, using both traditional and modern taxonomic methods.
The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) is a leading international research organisation delivering knowledge, education and plant conservation action around the world. In Scotland its four Gardens at Edinburgh, Benmore, Logan and Dawyck attract around a million visitors each year. It operates as a Non Departmental Public Body established under the National Heritage (Scotland) Act 1985, principally funded by the Scottish Government. It is also a registered charity, managed by a Board of Trustees appointed by Ministers. Its mission is “To explore, conserve and explain the world of plants”.
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