News, stories and reports from Forestry Commission Scotland and the National Forest Estate

Safeguarding the future of Scotland's best loved trees

In the face of climate change threats and increasing risk of attack from pests and diseases, Forestry Commission Scotland has taken steps to help safeguard the future of Scotland’s best loved and most vulnerable trees.

scots pine landscape

Photo credit Colin Leslie.

FCS is one of a new consortium of 15 Scottish organisations that is working with Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank as part of the UK National Tree Seed Project. Other participants include Scottish Wildlife Trust, Trees for Life, and the Woodland Trust.

The project aims to create the first UK national tree seed bank which would provide a vital resource for researchers working to develop more resilient woodlands across the UK. As well as providing an insurance policy against extinction, the project will also raise the capacity for collection and supply of seed of native species for planting across Scotland.

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Colin Edwards, Policy Advisor for Environment and Biodiversity for Forestry Commission Scotland, explained: “We are providing advice on target species distribution and help with collecting seeds.

“Seeds from Scotland’s trees – including common juniper, Scots pine, common ash, common alder and silver birch - will be collected and protected in long-term storage in the Millennium Seed Bank vault.

“That is a great benefit to research and to practical conservation work so it could one day have a direct bearing on management options on the National Forest Estate."

The consortium will expand the collections in Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank to become more comprehensive, so that it eventually represents the full genetic diversity of Scotland’s tree populations.

The Partnership is the most ambitious plant conservation initiative in the world and Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank is the largest facility of its kind.

With over a third of the plants represented in the collection having a known use to people, the seed bank will provide great opportunities for researching and developing the use of plants for the benefit of people and the planet.

Species targeted in the project include:

  • Common juniper (Juniperus communis). This evergreen species is one of only three native conifers in Britain and is at risk from the fungus-like pathogen Phytophthora austrocedrae;
  • scots pine coneScots pine (Pinus sylvestris). The national tree for Scotland is increasingly at risk from pests and diseases including Dothistroma needle blight, pinewood nematode, pine processionary moth and the pine tree lappet moth;
  • Common ash (Fraxinus excelsior). At threat from ash dieback (Chalara fraxinea), which first came to the public’s attention in spring 2012. This fungus kills the leaves and bark tissue, causes shoot death, cankers, crown dieback and ultimately the demise of the entire tree. Ash is also at potential risk from the emerald ash borer beetle;
  • Common alder (Alnus glutinosa). This water-loving species, typically found in wet woodlands or alongside streams and rivers, is at risk from the pathogen Phytophthora alnil; and
  • Silver birch (Betula pendula) and downy birch (Betula pubescens). The silver birch is a genuine native, growing in the UK since the end of the Ice Age. Its papery-white bark distinguishes it from the downy birch, which has reddish bark that turns grey with age.