Keeping woodlands in Wales and Ireland healthy

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Instant trees bring instant pest problems – as landscapers and gardeners ‘buy in’ tree disease

Impact Final Conference, Dublin, May 2013

Impact Final Conference, Dublin, May 2013

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‘Instant’ trees planted in the landscape across Wales and Ireland could signal the death knell for many forests and woodlands because of the pests and diseases they bring with them. And now IMPACT, a leading forest science project, is urging gardeners and landscape designers to ‘buy local’ in a bid to reduce the risks to trees.

A big increase in demand for fully grown trees is bringing in new imports from across the globe – partially because it is cheaper for nurseries to buy in from abroad rather than grow their own trees to meet market demand.

“But the danger is in the eco-system in the pot,” IMPACT project leader Professor Hugh Evans told the programme’s final conference in Dublin on 7 May. “Because these trees are transported in containers of soil which can also be carrying pests and pathogens, many not even known outside their home countries. Even if the tree itself is disease free, the whole package may well not be.”

Imports of trees can also bring unexpected problems, as only certain pest species are on the controlled lists that our inspectors search for so that many transport pathways are only partially regulated, creating a high risk of pest and pathogen spread.

“The difficulty is that this trade is market led, and there is little incentive for nurserymen to change their approach. A particular problem is that a plant may look healthy when imported, but it is only later that the problems manifest themselves. “Unfortunately the impact these diseases can have when they reach open woodlands is incalculable, millions of trees, worth millions of pounds, have been destroyed in Wales because of new pest invasions and it now looks likely that we may lose most of our native Ash as well," said Professor Evans,

Already the lethal combination of massive increases in trade and changes in climate which enable more pests to gain a foothold has brought killer pests to both Wales and Ireland where they have found ideal conditions to establish and grow.

Over the last two years trees in Britain, and in many cases, Wales have been under increased attack from non-native pests and pathogens. Chalara dieback of Ash, Asian Longhorn Beetle on a range of broadleaved tree species, horse chestnut Leaf Miner, Dothistroma needle blight and the fungus-like pathogen, Phytophthora ramorum, on larch all have damaging and lethal effects on our trees. Native insects are also responding to a changing and more suitable climate; the biggest killer of them all Hylobius abietis – a large weevil which causes massive damage to Sitka spruce - is developing much faster under a warming climate.

The EU Interreg IVA 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 outlined at the IMPACT Final Conference. The IMPACT team, led by Forest Research at Aberystwyth in close collaboration with National University of Ireland Maynooth and Swansea University, was joined by key speakers from Forest Research at Alice Holt, University College Dublin, Irish Department of Agriculture, Fisheries & Food and the Agri-Food & Biosciences Institute Northern Ireland, Coillte, State Forest Co of Ireland and FERS Ltd a forest and environmental consultancy.

"The conference provided an ideal opportunity to hear directly from the experts and for discussions about current and future threats and their potential management," said Professor Evans.

Latest improved climate models, aimed at helping develop strategic controls into the future, were 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 were also announced by Dr Christine Griffin from NUIM and by Finlay McAllister from Forest Research. Professor Tariq Butt from Swansea University demonstrated that the same pest management technologies are also being applied to biting flies and disease vectors such as midges, mosquitoes and ticks.



Prof Hugh Evans, Forest Research in Wales:
t:+44 (0)1970621527 m: +44 (0)7917000234
Guy Pargeter, Taliesin Communications:
t:01970 832375 m: +44 (0)7773 954231

IMPACT – Integrated Management of forest Pests Addressing Climate Trends:
This project is part funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the Ireland - Wales Programme (INTERREG 4A) and part funded by Natural Resources Wales (formerly Forestry Commission Wales). The project, called Integrated Management of forest Pests Addressing Climate Trends – IMPACT - is led by Forest Research in Wales, a research unit launched in 2009 based at Aberystwyth, with the National University of Ireland at Maynooth and Swansea University. It runs for 42 months to 30 June 2013.

Forest Research - Forest Research is the research agency of the Forestry Commission. It is a world leader in the research and development of sustainable forestry and is Britain's principal organisation for forestry and tree related research, with specialists covering topics from managing timber, and protecting woodland from climate change, to tracking new pests and diseases, and examining the social and community benefits of woodland in urban and rural areas.

Forest Research in Wales: The Forest Research in Wales Unit based in Aberystwyth, looks at research opportunities within Wales and elsewhere. Interactions with a wide range of stakeholders, particularly with Natural Resources Wales and the Welsh Government, are being developed to scope and deliver research and appropriate technology transfer. Links with the research community in Wales, universities and government organisations are also being developed.

Swansea University
Swansea University is a world-class, research-led university situated in stunning parkland overlooking Swansea Bay on the edge of the Gower peninsula, the UK's first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Founded in 1920, the University now offers around 500 undergraduate courses and 150 postgraduate courses to more than 13,800 students. Visit

NUIM, Maynooth
NUI Maynooth is renowned for the quality and value of its research and scholarship, for its dedication to excellent teaching, and for providing an outstanding learning environment for its students. The University is home to outstanding academics who have established a strong reputation for research and teaching excellence, and has over 8,000 students. NUI Maynooth has important research strengths in spatial analysis and geocomputation; applied mathematics and applied ICT; biological sciences; historical and cultural traditions, and business innovation. The University looks outward, engaging with industry and the community to better serve students, the region and the country. To find out more visit

Natural Resources Wales Forestry Commission Wales is now part of Natural Resources Wales a new body which has taken over the functions previously carried out by Forestry Commission Wales.

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