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Welsh forests given all-clear on tree pest

PRESS RELEASE



Welsh forests given all-clear on tree pest

A team of scientists in Wales has given the forests of south Wales the all clear following concerns that a new tree pest could have migrated across the border from England.

It was thought that Welsh forests could be at risk from the Large Larch Beetle and, as part of safe-guarding the future of Wales' larch trees, the team from the IMPACT forestry research project carried out a two-month monitoring programme.

"And we are pleased to report that we didn't find any evidence of a breeding population of the beetle here in Wales," said Tim Saunders of IMPACT, the joint Wales, Ireland and EU-funded project which looks at tree pests and climate change.

The beetle (Ips cembrae) has already been found in the Forest of Dean, and Tim and the project team were investigating to see whether larch trees already weakened in Wales by ramorum disease, caused by the fungus-like Phytophthora ramorum organism, were attracting this new pest.

"The key thing about trees being weakened is that they make it easier for Ips cembrae to breed, and this increases the risk of populations building up to such a level that they can begin to kill living trees directly," he said.



"This proactive action, monitoring the forest to see whether this important pest has migrated here, has given Welsh foresters a clearer understanding of what is happening on the ground, and will help with planning any possible counter-measures," he said.

The concern is that if Ips cembrae were to become established in Wales it could result in more larch losses, potentially affecting all species of larch, and because it can breed in newly felled trees and cause staining of the timber, possibly reducing the value of Sitka spruce, the main commercial crop in Wales.

About 1.5 million tonnes of larch timber in Wales have been affected by ramorum disease since it was first found affecting larch trees in Wales in 2010, mostly in the south. However, the rate of spread of the disease slowed dramatically in 2014, with only 385 hectares of woodland outside the Core Disease Zone in south Wales confirmed with new infection, compared with 3,715 in 2013.

The IMPACT team is led by Forest Research in Wales, and includes the National University of Ireland, Maynooth and Swansea University.

ENDS
14.12.2014

Contact:
Professor Hugh Evans, Forest Research in Wales: Tel – 07917 000234




NOTES TO EDITORS

The total area of larch in Wales is approximately 21,000 hectares, around 7 per cent of the total area of woodland in Wales and just over half, some 12,000 hectares, is on the Welsh Government Woodland Estate. Larch forms up to 14 per cent of the area of conifer and 16 per cent of the volume of standing conifer timber of woodlands in Wales, making it an important tree for the landscape and for timber production.

IMPACT – Integrated Management of forest Pests Addressing Climate Trends:
Is part funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the Ireland - Wales Programme (INTERREG 4A) and part funded by Natural Resources Wales and the Forestry Commission. It 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 to 30 June 2015.

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 Forestry Commission 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 being expanded.

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 www.swansea.ac.uk.


NUIM, Maynooth
National University of Ireland, Maynooth is one of four constituent universities of the federal National University of Ireland. The university traces its origins directly to the foundation in 1795 of St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, and it is Ireland's second oldest university.
Natural Resources Wales
About 14% of Wales is covered by woodlands. Of this, 38% (126,000 hectares/311,000 acres) is owned by the Welsh Government. Natural Resources Wales manages the Welsh Government’s woodlands on its behalf.
More information on the woodlands of Wales is available on http://naturalresourceswales.gov.uk/forestry/?lang=en

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