Neiker-Tecnalia studies the tree species that will adapt best to climate change in the Basque Country

December 19, 2013

The Basque Institute for Agricultural Research and Development, Neiker-Tecnalia, has set up three arboreta -plantations of trees of different species for scientific or educational purposes- in Bizkaia, in order to study the capacity of different tree species to adapt to the climate the Basque Country is expected to have in the future. The aim is to be one step ahead of climate change and to assess the behaviour of the different provenances of various species in order to select those that offer features most suited to the Basque Country's future climate, which is expected to be hotter with less rainfall. The researchers reckon that the northern latitudes of the European Atlantic façade will in the future have a climate that is similar to the one currently existing in more southerly latitudes. So the results obtained will be of great interest for the forestry sector, which will be able to know which species and provenances are most suited to the coming climate situation; that way, the sector will be able to manage its forested areas more effectively and productively.

Neiker-Tecnalia's work is part of a European Interreg Atlantic Area project, known as 'REINFFORCE: forestry adapted to climate change'.It seeks to set up a network of arboreta and demonstration sites that will enable the forestry area within the European Atlantic Arc to adapt the management of its forested areas to climate change. Within the Basque Country, the Hazi Fundazioa will also be participating in this initiative and has set up two arboreta, one in Gipuzkoa and the other in Alava-Araba.

The Neiker-Tecnalia arboreta have been planted in woodland areas in the municipality of Laukiz belonging to the Charter Provincial Council of Bizkaia.Each one has a surface area of about two hectares and with about 2,000 trees to be studied. The specimens planted belong to at least 35 species of different provenances relevant to the forestry sector; they include Asian species, like the Cunninghamialanceolata -the most common conifer in China- or the cedar of Lebanon; African ones, like the Atlas cedar; American ones, like the American oak or red gum; from Oceania, different eucalyptuses; plus European ones,like the pedunculate oak, Scots pine and maritime pine.

From now on, the researchers will be analysing three main parameters: growth, health status and phenology. Tree growth and development depends on the tree's capacity to adapt to its surroundings and climate. Health status is very closely related to the tree's resistance to pests, disease and droughts. And phenology has to do with the study of periodic or seasonal manifestations of the plant (sprouting, leaf shedding, etc.).The experts will be observing the various phenological phases to relate them to climate parameters. The knowledge of these phases will make it possible to predict tree behaviour when addressing climate phenomena like frosts.

REINFFORCE brings together 12 organisations relating to forestry research; they arelocated in the United Kingdom, France, Portugal, Basque Country, Navarre, Galicia andCastilla& León, under the coordination of the Atlantic regional office of the European Forest Institute (EFIAtlantic).Over the last five years the centres have set up a network of 38 arboreta that cover the whole European Atlantic façade, from the Isle of Mull in Scotland, as the northern limit, right down to the Tapada de Ajuda botanical park in Lisbon or the Moral de Hornuez locality in Segovia (Spain), as the southern limit.The network also includes two plantations on the Azores, which determine the western limit of the research.

The selection of the different provenances of the 35 tree species scheduled to be studied has been made bearing in mind the future scenario.The REINFFORCE project has come to an end, but the monitoring of the arboreta will go on for at least 15 years.Once that period is over, a detailed list of the most relevant species for the forestry sector in each zone within the European Atlantic arc will be available.

Elhuyar Fundazioa

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