Keeping woodlands in Wales and Ireland healthy

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Traditional conker contests at risk - but now there's new research (17-03-2015)

Those traditional autumn conker contests in Welsh playgrounds could be threatened by tiny bugs that feed on horse chestnut trees.

But now a leading Welsh tree research project - IMPACT, integrated management of pests addressing climate trends - has bee
Horse chestnut trees across the UK have been disfigured by attack from the larvae of Cameraria ohridella – better known as the horse chestnut leaf miner moth - which was first identified in Macedonia in 1984.

“The leaf miner larvae currently do little permanent damage to the trees, but we need to know what is happening to our trees now as the moth continues to spread westward and northward from its initial focus in London,” said Professor Hugh Evans, who leads the project for Forest Research in Wales.

The horse chestnut tree is threatened because the leaf miner disfigures the leaves as it feeds by ‘mining’ inside them, causing the leaves to go brown in mid or late summer.

“'While the leaf miner does not kill trees, there is a serious bleeding canker disease that does,” said Professor Evans. “Our concern is that, combined with the environmental effects of climate change, the two organisms will seriously affect this iconic tree in the future."

New forest researcher Tim Saunders has joined the IMPACT team of scientists and researchers from Forest Research in Wales, Swansea University and the National University of Ireland and one his first jobs is looking new ways of combating the tiny larvae using natural agents such as nematodes and fungi.

The latest work is going ahead thanks to additional ERDF funding of €477,000 with match funding of €159,000 making a total additional grant of €636,000 for the EU Ireland-Wales INTERREG IVA project.

"I'm really looking forward to getting to work on this exciting project which is investigating all the major threats from pests and pathogens both here in Wales and in Ireland as they increase because of climate change," said Tim, who has just finished a Masters in research degree funded by the Woodland Trust, looking at Agroforestry.

This autumn he will be assessing the current situation of the moth in Wales, analysing and collating the results at the Forest Research in Wales base at Aberystwyth University..

“IMPACT is about looking to the future, preparing for what might come under changing climates and through arrivals of new pests via international trade," said Tim, who is originally from Eastbourne and is now moving to Aberystwyth.

"We believe that by preparing for these threats through use of novel, environmentally benign solutions, we will be able to anticipate and manage pests such as the horse chestnut leaf miner and prevent them from becoming a real threat in the future,” he added

The adult leaf miner moth is 5mm long, with shiny, bright brown forewings with thin, silvery white stripes. It was originally first found in Macedonia in 1984 and has since travelled across Europe on the wind and by accidental transfer. It is still spreading from its original infestation in London and is now becoming more noticeable in Wales (http://impactproject.eu/uploads/cameraria_profile_draft_1.pdf) .
16.09.14
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