Treborth Botanic Garden hosts a wide array of resources for research across a broad range of disciplines.

All divisions of the plant kingdom are represented growing in situ at the Garden, including marine and freshwater algae, liverworts, hornworts and mosses, ferns and fern allies, conifers and flowering plants, plus many fungi and lichens. The tree collection (“Arboretum”) is being developed to demonstrate the sequence of establishment of woody species in Britain after the Ice Age. Most of the main orders of flowering plant families are represented by native or cultivated specimens at Treborth. Material is grown either outside in the Gardens, or in glasshouses that are maintained under cool temperate, warm temperate and tropical conditions.

The native grassland, mature woodland, freshwater and marine habitats at Treborth offer a compact, safe and accessible space, supported by laboratory and glasshouse facilities, for the study of biodiversity and ecological processes. The Site of Special Scientific Interest woodland with Government “Glastir” management agreement, and the long-term Grassland Meadow Plots also offer excellent potential for the monitoring of natural resource management regimes. Specific opportunities exist for study of the Garden’s native red squirrel population and the heron colony, and there have been long-term investigations of night-flying moths and fungal diversity, and of bird homing behaviour at the Garden.

Outdoor collections comprise beds of flowers from around the world, including a Chinese medicinal plants garden which will be paralleled by a demonstration area for the Welsh tradition of herbal medicine. A small orchard, butterfly border, dipping pond, forest school site and allotment area add to the possibilities for research studies. Indoor collections include specialist glasshouses for tropical species such as bananas, carnivorous plants, desert succulents and cacti, and many representatives of the largest family of flowering plants – the Orchids. Species representing different biomes of the world are included, along with many examples of crops and economic plants.

Rhizotron – Underground Carbon Capture Laboratory

In 2010 The Royal Society and The Wolfson Foundation provided us with a generous grant to refurbish the Rhizotron at the Garden allowing us to create a state-of-the-art below ground carbon laboratory (Wolfson Belowground Carbon Laboratory or ‘Rhizotron’). This refurbishment has created a unique and perhaps model facility allowing for detailed studies on soil carbon storage at the root-soil interface. 

This laboratory can once again serve as a Nation landmark and provide university researchers and their collaborators with unique research opportunities.

Current research in the Rhizotron

Research is underway in the Rhizotron! Relena is a PhD student exploring the relationships between trees planted in mixed- or single-species forests. She has planted mini-forests in the Rhizotron to determine if mixed-species forests have specific benefits for tree growth and development above and below ground.

This project is designed to provide data on the following research questions:

  1. Do trees grow bigger and taller when planted with different species, or by themselves?
  2. Do tree roots grow deeper and longer when planted with different species, or by themselves?
  3. Do soil communities differ within single-species mini-forests compared with the mixed-species mini-forests?

Relena is also interested in looking at these same questions in forests that have been developing for over 40 years in single-species and mixed-species forest stands. She selected four tree species for the Rhizotron experiment, and these mixtures replicate real-life forests that she has been conducting experiments in over the past 2 years.

Relena planted Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga taxifolia) and red alder (Alnus rubra) in single- and mixed-species soil bays. She also planted common oak (Quercus robur) and sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) in single- and mixed-species soil bays. She has been monitoring the trees and their growth over the past 2 years, and periodically sampling the soils developing below the mini-forests, to see if and how soil physical and chemical properties differ among soil bays. Another exciting aspect of her work is exploring the structure and function of soil microbial communities (fungi, bacteria, and archaea), to see if different communities develop under the different tree species. 

Stop by and say hello, next time you see her at the Rhizotron!
Relena Ribbons