Forestry Commission Announce Joint Action to Tackle Larch Disease

Forestry Commission Announce Joint Action to Tackle Larch Disease

Forestry Commission Scotland is joining forces with the forestry sector to take action to tackle a significant increase in a tree disease that kills larch trees.

Phytophthora ramorum on larch was first found in Dumfries & Galloway in 2010 but survey work carried out this spring suggests that the disease has increased its range considerably in the Dumfries & Galloway area.

The Commission is carrying out additional survey work both on the ground and in the air to determine the extent of the disease and is also working with the forestry sector to agree the actions to take to minimise further spread of the disease and how best to manage the impacts of it in Dumfries & Galloway.

Environment & Climate Change Minister, Paul Wheelhouse, is aware of the situation and has asked to be kept informed of developments.

John Dougan, the Commission’s conservator in the area said:

“This is a worrying development and we are working with industry partners to manage its impact, both in terms of limiting its further spread and in dealing with the trees that have already been affected.

“There is a core area in Galloway Forest Park where it looks as if all larch has been infected and we are looking at how best to recover as much usable timber as possible.

“Beyond this core area, we are looking at taking further action to fell infected stands and those adjacent to it to try to minimise the further spread of the disease.

“Our aerial surveys have also identified suspicious sites in other parts of Scotland, however we think that the damage at these sites, most of which are well away from the main source of infection, could have been caused by canker – or reflects squirrel or deer damage of the tree. All of these sites will be visited so that our skilled surveyors can check for the disease.”

Larch trees are a relatively small but important part of Galloway forests, making up around 7% of the forest area.

Jamie Farquhar, CONFOR’s Scotland National Manager, said:

“The forest industries are working with Forestry Commission Scotland to involve the entire sector in dealing with the impact of the disease. There will be increased felling activity which will involve not only the forest management and harvesting sectors, but also haulage and timber processors.

“It is an industry wide approach that aims to hold up the spread of this serious disease, and mitigate its impact as much as possible.” Read Confor’s own statement.

P. ramorum can be spread over several miles in mists, air currents, watercourses and rainsplash. It is known to infect a range of species other than Larch, including Rhododendron and Blaeberry. It is clear that airborne spores are the most important factor in this outbreak.

Phytophthora pathogens can also be spread on footwear, dogs’ paws, bicycle wheels, tools and equipment etc. Movement of infected plants is also a key means of spreading it over long distances.

Access to public forests is only being restricted while trees are being felled, which is normal practice for safety reasons.

There is no threat to public health and visitors are still welcome in Galloway Forest Park but are being asked to help prevent or minimise the further spread of the disease. As well as observing any local signage, visitors can also –

• Keep to marked paths;
• Keep  dogs on leads;
• Do not remove any plant material, such as cuttings, from the woodland;
• Remove soil and mud from boots and shoes before leaving the woodland; and
• thoroughly wash boots, shoes and bicycle wheels before visiting other susceptible areas, such as woodlands, gardens or garden centres and nurseries.

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