Trees: From Seed to Sawdust - Episode 16 - Recreation, Research & Conservation at John F Kennedy Arboretum

At the John F Kennedy Arboretum in New Ross Co Wexford there is a big collection of trees from all over the world. These trees are nice to look at and the arboretum is a beautiful place to visit but there is also research and conservation work being carried there too. The results of this work are proving to be particularly important given the weather changes we are experiencing due to global warming
The JFK Arboretum was conceived as a memorial to honour American President John F Kennedy following his assassination in 1963.  The site at New Ross Co Wexford was picked due to it's proximity to his ancestral homestead and due it's mild climate, diverse soil types and variations in elevation.

Kevin Naughton is head gardener at the arboretum and he takes Monica around the park, stopping at intervals to show the broad ranges of trees that they have in their collection.  The trees are mainly breed from wild seed collections and the arboretum features trees from Asia to Australia, the parts of America and Europe. It's managed by the OPW under the co-ordination of the Botanic Gardens in Dublin and it's five principles of being are as a centre of education, recreation, research, conservation and demonstration.  

There is lots of wildlife and biodiversity at the arboretum which is nurtured and sustained through various practices which include allowing the grasses to grow during the summer months.  

Over the years many storms and the two most recent hurricanes have taken down a lot of trees at the park causing it to close for sometimes months at a time.  These storms are becoming more frequent and could well be indicative of the changes in weather being caused by the warming of our planet.

In fact, climate change is being studied at the Phenological Gardens at the JFK Arboretum.  Kathleen Carroll, has for the past 40 years being recording the dates of the seasonal cycles of the trees.  She has found that spring is coming 2 to 3 weeks earlier than when she first began her data collection.  Will our trees be able to adapt to these changes in climate, and what sort of trees will be best suited to climate in the coming years?

Climate change and habitat loss is having a huge impact on the diversity of conifers around the world.  As part of their conservation role, the JFK Arboretum is taking part in the International Conifer Conservation Project (ICCP).  Gary Mentanko is in charge of this project at the arboretum. He explains that 1/3 of the conifers around the world are under threat and that the arboretum is planting 1,300 threatened conifers over the next year in the hopes that they can save the genetic diversity of these important trees.

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