Bangor University KESS 2 PhD candidate Anastasia Atucha has published her first paper in the journal Forestry. Anastasia’s research is focused on studying the frost tolerance of Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis).
Climate change is expected to decrease frost damage levels of the important commercial tree species Sitka spruce in Great Britain, because Sitka spruce is an introduced species originally from north America. In contrast, native species are expected to be severely affected by climate driven changes in phenology, such as the timing of bud burst, whereas introduced species are not.
“I think the key part here is that bud burst timing has no effect whatsoever on the levels of frost damage in Sitka spruce. So many breeding efforts and research on frost tolerance seem to focus on avoiding early bud burst. Showing that this has no importance in the UK is useful to focus breeding effort towards more useful goals.
While the research shows that climate change is expected to reduce the overall levels of frost damage in Sitka spruce, there is still quite a bit of uncertainty around other factors. For example, increased drought can multiply any effects of frosts. This research doesn’t mean that breeders should ignore frost tolerance – rather, that they should not chase the red herring that is early bud burst.”
Andy Smith, co-supervisor, said,
“Anastasia’s detailed modelling has enabled a robust assessment of the future risk of frost damage to commercial forest plantations across the UK. We hope that the results will inform tree breeding programmes to maximise the efficiency of afforestation programmes.”
Katherine Steele, co-supervisor, adds,
“Frost tolerance is genetically complex, so this finding helps rule out one of the potential component traits in Sitka spruce”.
Anastasia’s PhD research project is supported by Maelor Forest Nurseries Ltd. and KESS 2 allocated European Social Funds (ESF) through the Welsh Government. Her project is supervised by Dr Andy Smith and Dr Katherine Steele at Bangor University.
The full published paper can be viewed at: https://academic.oup.com/forestry/advance-article/doi/10.1093/forestry/cpab020/6276258?searchresult=1