Keeping woodlands in Wales and Ireland healthy

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Scientists look to radical change in the fight against forest pests (14-02-2012)

IMPACT Project at the ROYAL WELSH SHOW – Tuesday 19 July. A radical new way of tackling the insect pests that are an increasing problem for Welsh tree growers - from the nursery through establishment to the final crop - is being developed by scientists
Pests such as the pine weevil, Hylobius abietis and its close relative the vine weevil, otiorhynchus sulcatus, are already causing major damage and the effects are expected to get worse under climate change.

Now the IMPACT project (Integrated Management of Forest Pests addressing Climate Change) - which looks at tree pests and climate change - is developing a new way of tackling the threat.

And on Tuesday 19 July at the Royal Welsh Show this new integrated approach – to be developed with land owners and managers who will bring their knowledge and experiences of growing trees – will be outlined to the new IMPACT Project Stakeholder Group. You are invited to join the presentation and discussions at 11.30am at the Confor marquee in the Forestry Section.

“In the past we have focused on the individual pest,” said Professor Hugh Evans who leads IMPACT, which is co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the Ireland Wales Programme (INTERREG 4A), COFORD and Forestry Commission Wales.

“Now we believe there must be a major change in the way we work,” he told a meeting of the consortium behind the project at Swansea University last week.

“There needs to be a mind set shift so that we manage the whole tree growing process, even at the forest scale, taking into account the many variables that can affect the way we anticipate and manage pests.”

“Our job now is to bring this integrated approach together in a single coherent management system which foresters and land managers will be able to use to tailor the right measures to each area of forest at each stage of of its growth from the nursery to the mature tree,” said Prof Evans.

The IMPACT team, which includes specialists from Forest Research in Wales, National University of Ireland, Maynooth and Swansea University, is looking at every component of the forest management process.

“Every single aspect needs to be considered if we are to beat threats, such as pine weevil, which are already having a dramatic effects on our forests – and which will only increase as climate change continues to bite,” said Prof Evans.

“In the past we have used conventional techniques such as use of chemical insecticides, but we have to work smarter than that, both to predict pest infestations and develop sustainable long-term control methods.

“We have to take into consideration everything from prevailing temperature, rainfall and wind conditions to soil type, woodland structure and management regimes and, ultimately, the choice of tree species that we plant.

“Decisions taken today need to account for future pest threats and this is where the climate change modelling from the Maynooth team is being linked to the pest management expertise here in Wales,” Professor Evans said.

Already research work is delivering results on use of natural methods of control – nematodes and fungi – to link to population trends of pests under different climates.


15/7/2012

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