Biodiversity, taxonomy, Genetics and Ecology of Sub-Arctic Willow Scrub
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Sub-arctic willows in Scotland
Sub-arctic willow scrub is one of the UK's most endangered habitats and is largely confined to the Scottish Highlands
(JNCC, 1999). It currently exists as isolated, fragmented populations which are considered to be remnants of a formerly more widespread vegetation type
(Mardon, 1990). These surviving fragments are the subjects of acute conservation concern, and without intervention, many populations are in danger of terminal decline. Indeed, one of the British montane willow species is included in the Red Data Book of rare plants (
Wigginton 1999) and five others are classified as scarce (
Stewart, Pearman & Preston 1994). To determine the most appropriate strategies for management and species recovery programmes, underpinning scientific research is required.
SEERAD Funded Research Project
This multi-disciplinary project aimed to address the outstanding research requirements for sub-arctic willow communities in Scotland by investigating the relationship between species diversity, genetic diversity and ecological interactions.
Specifically, the project aims were:
to clarify the species and hybrid composition of the willow communities
to assess the patterns of intraspecific genetic variability
to investigate how diversity in the willows relates to diversity in associated ecosystem components
to establish the factors currently limiting willow regeneration.
To achieve these objectives the research programme combined skills in molecular biology, population genetics, systematics, mycological taxonomy, plant taxonomy, plant reproductive ecology, herbivory and phytochemistry.