Keeping woodlands in Wales and Ireland healthy

Press Release

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Protecting current and future forests - coping with pests, pathogens and climate change

Climate change and booming international trade combine to create an ever increasing threat of novel pests arriving and causing damage to forests across Ireland and Wales. That's the message that will be delivered by top forestry experts at the final conference of the IMPACT - Integrated Management of Pests Addressing Climate Trends - project in Dublin on 7 May.

Already the combination of shipping and changes in the weather has brought several pests to our shores where they have found ideal conditions to establish and grow. Chalara dieback of ash is an example of a damaging pathogen that has come to Ireland though the trade route, while other pests and diseases are spread through natural means.

“Establishment of non-native pests and pathogens and the exacerbation of pests already present in Ireland is a serious threat to both the economic value of forest products and the maintenance of high nature value native woodlands” said Dr Chris Williams, an entomologist with the IMPACT project team at NUI Maynooth.

Native insects are also responding to a changing and more suitable climate; the biggest threat of them all Hylobius abietis – a large weevil which causes massive damage to Sitka spruce - is developing much faster under a warming climate.

"We have seen unprecedented damage to the trees of Wales in the last two years," said Professor Hugh Evans from Forest Research at Aberystwyth, the coordinator of the IMPACT project, the research project which has been developing new solutions to the threats of climate change and pests on trees. And although it is a complicated picture, we believe this combination of enormous increases in global trade moving pests around, combined with increasing climate suitability once they arrive have worked together to create the opportunity for a ‘perfect storm’ of new pest outbreaks," he said.

The Interreg IVA -funded project anticipated this ‘perfect storm’ in 2010 and the Irish and Welsh team has now developed biological control strategies to add to a tool box of pest management solutions for the future which will be outlined at the IMPACT Final Conference on 7 May 2013 at the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin.

The IMPACT team of scientists from National University of Ireland Maynooth, Forest Research at Aberystwyth and Swansea University, will be joined by speakers from Forest Research in England, the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine, Coillte, University College Dublin, and the Agri-Food & Biosciences Institute Northern Ireland.

Biological control integrated into novel monitoring regimes, concentrating especially on microbial control agents – fungi, bacteria, viruses and parasitic nematodes is one of the key developments identified. Taken together, these will reduce or eliminate the need to use synthetic chemical insecticides, providing additional environmental benefits, as well as greater protection for both Irish and Welsh trees and forests.

"Ireland's changing climate brings with it many potential threats to things in our landscape we take for granted. Our island status has protected us from many pests and diseases in the past, but a new cohort of insect pests are moving north and must be coped with if our forest resource is to thrive in years ahead." said Professor John Sweeney of NUI Maynooth. "Climate models are providing us with the where and when new pest attacks on our forests are likely to emerge and will help prioritise defence measures against them", he added. Latest improved climate models,aimed at helping develop strategic controls into the future, will be revealed by NUIM team members Professor John Sweeney and Dr Rodney Teck.

And advances in the control of the number one pest of commercial forestry in Ireland and Wales - the pine weevil Hylobius abietis - taking laboratory research on the use of nematodes and fungi for the management into the field with improved environmental benefits will also be announced.
ENDS 3.5.2013

Dr Christopher D. Williams (Project Manager) Department of Biology, NUI Maynooth, Ireland, Tel 303.1.7086852 mobile 353.86.0560770 e-mail:
Dr Christine Griffin, Department of Biology, NUI Maynooth, Ireland.
Tel 353.1.7083845 e-Mail:
Professor John Sweeney, ICARUS, NUI Maynooth, Ireland.
Tel 353.1.708 3684 or 708 6835 e-Mail:


IMPACT – Integrated Management of forest Pests Addressing Climate Trends:
This project which is part funded by the European Regional Development
Fund (ERDF) through the Ireland - Wales Programme (INTERREG 4A) and part funded by COFORD. The project, called Integrated Management of forest Pests Addressing Climate Trends’ – IMPACT - is a collaboration between the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, Swansea University and Forest Research Wales (the coordinator). It has been running for three years and ends on 30th June 2013.

Forestry in Ireland
‘Ireland has the lowest forest cover of all European countries: 10.15% compared to a European average of over 30%....These forests are mostly man-made. Government policy is to bring the national forest cover to 17% by 2030.’

The largest forestry and forest products company is Coillte. ‘Coillte’s core purpose is to enrich lives locally, nationally and globally through the innovative and sustainable management of natural resources. Coillte is a commercial company operating in forestry, land-based businesses, renewable energy and panel products. The company employs approx 1,100 people and was established in 1988. It owns over 445,000 hectares of land, about 7% of the land cover of Ireland.’

Forest Research in Ireland
Forest research is funded by the Irish Government under the National Development Plan 2007-2013. Funding is administered by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s Competitive Forest Research for Development programme (Coford). The Department co-funds the IMPACT project.

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