Keeping woodlands in Wales and Ireland healthy

Press Release

more press releases from IMPACT

Deadly attacks on Welsh forests - science summit reveals new 'toolkit' to fight pests

Phytophthora ramorum, a fungus-like pathogen, has cut a swathe through the nation's Larch trees, ash die back caused by a fungus (Chalara fraxinea) is a major threat to ash in Wales. Acute oak decline, which is linked to a number of organisms, including a bacterium previously unknown to science and a native jewel beetle that was previously innocuous, is on the increase and these have been joined in Wales by horse chestnut leafminer, a moth that has spread across Europe and through Great Britain. Pests from around the world are already known to pose threats and could join the growing list threatening our trees.

"We have seen unprecedented damage to the trees of Wales in the last year," Professor Hugh Evans of IMPACT, the research project looking at new solutions to the threats of climate change and pests on trees. "2012 was definitely an annus horriblis for the trees and forests of Wales. And it is obvious that one of the major contributors to this is climate change which is improving conditions for the fungi, beetles and other pests, allowing them to spread in unprecedented numbers. When we combine this with increasing trade globally, there is ample opportunity for pest organisms to travel the world and settle, with grave consequences, where they are not welcome."

Leading land use scientists and managers will be joining the team from IMPACT as part of a Stakeholder Group addressing how research can identify and provide solutions to key pest problems at the National Botanic Gardens in Llanarthne for an all day briefing session on Wednesday 23 January.

IMPACT is a Forest Research in Wales led project, part funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the Ireland Wales Programme (INTERREG 4A), with match funding from Forestry Commission Wales. The IMPACT Stakeholder Group will be considering a wide range of issues, from the development of new natural methods of control to changes in forest management and tougher import controls on plants and trees.

“The vast majority of non-native diseases in the forest are brought in through trade, including the packaging wood on imported goods and on living plants themselves,” said Professor Evans, Head of Forest Research in Wales and co-ordinator of the project. "While this posed some risks in the past, new pests are now presented with warmer, wetter weather conditions across the UK in general enabling them to establish and spread very rapidly."

Forest Research in Wales is looking at improved pest control measures through 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 forest and woodland pests. And 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.

Advances in biological control - taking laboratory research on the use of nematodes and fungi for the management of the number one pest of commercial forestry in Ireland and Wales, the pine weevil Hylobius abietis, into the field with improved environmental benefits - will also be announced. And the team will also be learning from recent experiences in the UK and internationally, to raise awareness and benefit from.

The IMPACT scientists expect future weather extremes – drought, flooding, higher and lower temperatures – to put woodlands under increasing levels of stress. This lowers the defences of trees, opening them up to attack from insect pests such as the pine weevil, 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. The key will be biological control integrated into novel monitoring regimes, concentrating especially on microbial control agents – fungi, bacteria, viruses and parasitic nematodes. Taken together, these will reduce or eliminate the need to use synthetic chemical insecticides, thus providing additional environmental benefits.

The IMPACT partnership already has a strong track record in use of these agents and expects to deliver improved technology which will benefit land users whose trees are at risk from pest infestations, now and in the future. MORE_DETAILS   

Using nature's weapons to battle current and future threats

Website design: mach2media and Technoleg Taliesin Cyf.