Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum partner with UWE Bristol to part-fund PhD study on risks to lime tree health

Media Relations Team, 04 October 2022

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A forest full of tall green trees

The Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum (FoWA) has announced a new partnership with UWE Bristol to part-fund a PhD student in collaboration with Westonbirt Arboretum over the next three years. The study to be undertaken will be an evaluation of the risks to Tilia health through monitoring, detection and microbiome analysis with the aim of determining current and future threats to Tilia, developing an effective detection protocol for symptomatic Tilia and determining the pathogenicity and incidence of Brenneria and Phytophthora species on Tilia.

Tilia (commonly known as lime or linden) are one of the few native high forest species in Britain found naturally throughout the UK. These broadleaf trees are prolific in ancient woodlands where they are considered indicator species of forest age, management and conservation although the naturally occurring population is declining and highly fragmented. Tilia species are popular choices for planted avenues in parks and arboretums throughout the UK and are also the second most common tree in the urban woodlands of inner London, providing important ecosystem services such as improved air quality, shade and biodiversity.

Due to the changing climate in the UK, there has been a rise in the emergence of plant pathogens and pests on new hosts. Currently, there are 30 risks to Tilia listed on the UK Plant Health Risk Register; and over the past ten years, there have been increasing reports of Tilia species and hybrids with symptoms of bleeding cankers in several counties including Essex, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Wiltshire and Worcestershire. Due to a lack of research, both the potential scale of the problem and the agent responsible for the symptoms are unknown.

Using novel and innovative technology this research will be to provide an in-depth survey of the current and potential future threats to Tilia in the UK, identifying the causal agent, and to advise foresters, landowners and stakeholders in the choice of resilient Tilia planting stock as an emerging approach to a novel environmental challenge.

This new partnership between FoWA and UWE Bristol at Westonbirt Arboretum will strengthen collaboration links with landowners and Forestry England, allowing access to a network of researchers and policy makers, as well as significantly contribute to achieving Westonbirt’s 10-year vision.

FoWA’s newly appointed CEO, Emma Griffiths stated, “We are delighted to partner with UWE Bristol as this opportunity will help us to achieve our charitable objects by providing both conservation and educational support to Westonbirt Arboretum; deepening the understanding of the critical role of trees, and their contribution to the environment, and society in general in this changing world.”

The research falls within UWE Bristol’s ‘Sustainability and Climate Change Resilience’ beacon, and will inform foresters, landowners and stakeholders of the Tilia species or hybrids that are more resilient to disease and can be planted to increase canopy cover.

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