Climate change - gearing up for a micro battle in the forests of Wales (01-07-2010)The forests and trees of Wales could be under even greater climate change threat than first thought – from some of the tiniest creatures in the world.
And now the Forest Research in Wales Unit has begun working to identify just how great that threat is through a new project - IMPACT – with partners from Swansea University and the National University of Ireland, Maynooth.
Top of the agenda for the Integrated Management of forest Pests Addressing Climate Trends (IMPACT) team is assessing just how changing climate will influence the damage caused by pests and pathogens, some already here and others potentially brought here through international trade.
“Our aim is to find out what the effects will be on trees, their insect pests, the natural enemies of those pests and the way all three interact,” said Dr Hugh Evans, Head of Forest Research in Wales and co-ordinator of the new project, 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 the threat going to increase? How do we develop better prediction, monitoring, and identification systems?” Dr Evans added. “And most importantly, how do we best use the weapons provided by nature - microbial control agents such as bacteria, fungi, viruses and insect parasitic nematodes – to combat the threat?”
2/ Climate change – gearing up for new battle in the forests
The Welsh scientists expect future weather extremes – drought, flooding, higher and lower temperatures – to put Welsh woodlands under increasing levels of stress.
And just like humans, increased stress lowers the trees defences, opening them up to attack from insect pests such as bark beetles, wood boring beetles and a wide range of root and leaf feeders, all of which affect tree growth, sometimes leading to tree death.
“We want to improve our ability to predict which pests will get worse under future climates and then to develop ways of monitoring and managing them,” said Dr Evans.
The key will be biological control integrated into novel monitoring regimes, concentrating especially on what we call microbial control agents – fungi, bacteria, viruses and parasitic nematodes.
“Our partnership already has a strong track record in use of these agents and we expect to deliver improved technology to any land users whose trees are at risk from pest infestations,” he added.
The three year project was launched at Aberystwyth in May and will also be featuring at the Royal Entomological Society Annual meeting at Swansea University - 26-28 July.