Keeping woodlands in Wales and Ireland healthy


Welsh forests - facing the challenges of today, preparing for the future (26-02-2015)

The programme to protect Welsh woodlands from disease run by a dedicated team of forest researchers is stepping up a gear as Welsh trees face some of the biggest threats in generations.

A new tool-kit of measures developed to help create resilient woodlands for the future was revealed by members of the 12-strong Forest Research in Wales team at the Royal Welsh Show on Tuesday 23 July.

They have put together a joined up method of pest and pathogen controls to protect trees throughout the growing process.

“In the past we have focused on the individual pest, but we believe there needs to be a mind-set shift so that we manage the whole tree growing process, taking into account the many variables that can affect the way we anticipate and manage pests,” said team leader Professor Hugh Evans.

"Forest Research in Wales has made real progress in identifying new ways of reducing threats from pests through two EU-funded research projects it leads; Integrated Management of forest Pests Addressing Climate Trends (IMPACT) and Research Extending Plant Health Risk And Monitoring Evaluation (REPHRAME),"

Ramorum disease, caused by the fungus-like pathogen Phytophthora ramorum, is causing significant damage to Welsh larch trees, potentially affecting up to 5 million tonnes of timber. Efforts continue to find ways of reducing the impacts of this major tree-killing disease.

Chalara dieback of ash trees, which is causing damage to this important tree species, is another cause for concern and other pest problems may also be compounded by climate change.

Forest Research, the research agency of the Forestry Commission, which has stations in England, Scotland and Wales, provides solutions to help foresters and woodland users face the challenges of today and prepare for the future. Climate change is already predicted to alter the mix of tree species that will thrive in the forests over the next 60 years.

Professor Evans and his colleagues also explained how Forest Research works with stakeholders, especially the Welsh Government and the newly-formed Natural Resources Wales.

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.

Presentations also looked at international pest risk assessment and risk reduction, through the EU-funded PERMIT (Pathway Evaluation and pest Risk Management In Transport) project, and work on pine wood nematode in the REPHRAME project.

Linkages with the Dyfi Catchment and Woodland Research Platform with emphasis on woodlands and their interaction at a landscape scale with the environment, including Ecosystem Services, will also be discussed.

“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.

Professor Hugh Evans, Forest Research in Wales: Tel – 01970 621 527
Guy Pargeter, Taliesin Communications: Tel - 01970 832 375

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