Can exotic tree species support biodiversity and ecosystem services in a warming world?

Theme: Biodiversity, Ecology & Conservation

Primary Supervisor:

Julia Koricheva

School of Biological Sciences, RHUL

Julia Koricheva's Profile Picture

Secondary Supervisor:

Cristina Garcia

School of Biological Sciences, RHUL

Cristina Garcia has not set a profile picture

Project Description:

Current forest cover in the UK is only 13% and is one of the lowest in Europe. Recognizing the crucial role of forests in mitigating climate change, the UK government has set ambitious targets for tree planting thus making the creation of multifunctional forests resilient to climate change a key challenge in the coming decades. However, climate change and resulting poleward spread of pests and diseases threaten the health of native tree species such as ash and beech and can make them unsuitable as the main tree species in the UK in a few decades. One possibility is to use exotic tree species from warmer climates to future proof UK forests. However, it is not known to what extent these exotic species might be able to support UK biodiversity and ecosystem services. This project will explore whether exotic tree species can support biodiversity and ecosystem services to a similar degree as native tree species using RBG Kew’s botanic garden in Sussex, Wakehurst Place as a research platform. Wakehurst provides an ideal location for this comparative project as it contains specimens of temperate tree species from all around the world which are arranged using phylogeographic planting system into >1ha compartments from different continents. The prospective student will assess biodiversity in the above woodland types using acoustic surveys of vocalizing animals, invertebrate surveys and ground vegetation surveys which will enable comparisons of animal and plant diversity in sites dominated by trees from different continents. In addition, several ecosystem services will be assessed including pest regulation, carbon sequestration and aesthetic value.

Policy Impact of Research:

The outcomes of this research project will offer crucial insights for policymakers, enabling them to make informed decisions on forest management strategies in the face of climate change and biodiversity conservation. By understanding the potential trade-offs and benefits associated with introducing exotic tree species, policymakers can develop sustainable strategies for forest resilience and biodiversity conservation

Stay informed

Click here to subscribe to our RSS newsletter by email.

Find Us

University College London is the administrative lead.

North-West Wing, UCL, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT

Follow us on Twitter