Keeping woodlands in Wales and Ireland healthy

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Forest pests threat to the traditional Christmas tree ? (14-02-2012)

The traditional Christmas tree that lights up the festive season is being put at risk by tiny pests which are already beginning to munch their way through the Welsh forests.
The large pine weevil (Hylobius abietis) – the single most important insect pest of plantation forestry in Europe – is on the march, helped by the affects of Climate Change.

“The increasing extremes in our weather – cold, increased rainfall and flooding, a general raising of temperature – are creating the ideal conditions for forest pests,” said Dr Hugh Evans, co-ordinator of the IMPACT project and
Head of Forest Research in Wales.

“Just like humans, when trees are put under stress through lack of water, drought or extreme cold, their defences are weakened – which allows pests like the pine weevil to gain a strong foothold.

“And already we are seeing how many of our traditional ‘Christmas trees’ are being affected by bugs like the pine weevil, which can cause major damage in the crop.”

Now the IMPACT (Integrated Management of forest Pests Addressing Climate Trends) team is assessing just how changing climate will influence the damage caused by pests and pathogens.

Working with Forest Research in Wales, Swansea University and the National University of Ireland, Maynooth - which is part funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the Ireland Wales Programme (INTERREG 4A), with match funding from Forestry Commission Wales - is looking at improved pest control measures.

And next month the project team will be holding an open meeting near Dublin, with project partners and other leading scientists, to review progress so far in the 12 month old project.

They will be spotlighting latest control measures of the large pine weevil – which can reduce its impact by 40 per cent – emerging pests, bio control of soil pests and other issues.

The key to their work will be biological control integrated into novel monitoring regimes, concentrating especially on microbial control agents – fungi, bacteria, viruses and parasitic nematodes.

The IMPACT partnership already has a strong track record in use of these agents and expects to deliver improved technology to farmers and landowners whose trees are at risk from pest infestations.

21.12. 2010

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