CONSERVATION HEDGES – MODERN-DAY ARKS

Martin Gardner, Tom Christian, William Hinchliffe, Rob Cubey

Abstract


In May 2014, the first planting of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) conservation
hedge took place, when the Reverend Anne Brennan planted a tree which had originated as a
cutting from the ancient and historic European yew, Taxus baccata, in the churchyard of her church
at Fortingall, Perthshire. This is one of almost 2,000 plants that will eventually form a conservation
hedge of significant scientific and conservation value. The International Conifer Conservation
Programme (ICCP), based at RBGE, has actively sought other opportunities to establish conservation
hedges via its network of ‘safe sites’, using a range of different conifer species. This initiative
is being driven by the potential for relatively large numbers of genotypes from a single threatened
species to be stored in a linear space. It is well established that seed banks have a great capacity
to store large amounts of genetic diversity, so we should simply consider conservation hedges in a
similar manner. These super-hedges cram relatively large amounts of genetic material into a small
space, capturing a great range of wild traits and potentially contributing to the restoration of wild
populations. To date, conservation hedges have been planted at five separate locations at RBGE’s
Edinburgh Garden as well as at four ICCP external ‘safe sites’. Although this article focuses on the
establishment of conservation hedges using conifers, we have also highlighted some conservation
hedges that comprise non-coniferous species.

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References


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