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Forests have a special magic for many of us. Steeped in folklore and fantasy, they are places for enchantments, mythical creatures and outlaws. But if they are to survive into the future, they may also need a helping hand from science.
Globally, forests are having a tough time. Industrial logging, wildfires and deforestation for agriculture has seen swathes of trees, and their associated habitat, destroyed.
Europe - Parts - World - Areas - Thanks
Europe, however, is one of the few parts of the world where forested and wooded areas are actually increasing, thanks to careful forest management. The EU has around 182 million hectares of forest and other wooded land - accounting for 43% of its total land area and 5% of the world's forests.
But the dramatic environmental changes brought by global warming are now threatening these flourishing forests. Scientists hope that by mapping the genetic diversity hidden within forests, they can identify traits to allow wooded areas to thrive under changing conditions.
Concerns - Climate - Change - Forests - Dr
"There are concerns that climate change is happening too fast for forests to adapt to what is happening around them," explained Dr. Barbara Vinceti, a scientist at agricultural research organisation Bioversity International, in Rome, Italy.
Pests and diseases are also a growing threat as global trade and climate change makes it easier for them to spread. The Chalara fungus, for example, has devastated up to 90% of ash trees populations in some countries in just a few years after seemingly arriving in Europe from Asia. Dutch Elm Disease, a fungus spread by elm bark beetles, caused similar destruction of elm trees across Europe in the 20th century.
Key - Diversity - Forests - Threats - Risks
"The key is to identify and preserve the diversity we have in our forests so they can deal with future threats and risks," said Dr. Vinceti. "It's about maximising the options to meet future challenges."
She is part of the GenTree project that is...
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