Our forests, woodlands and trees, along with many other important plants, are facing an increasing range of damaging pests and diseases as a result of international trade and the effects of a warmer, wetter climate.
In the past, with fewer threats to deal with, we have tended to treat these as separate issues. It is now time for a different approach, one which recognises the connections between these damaging agents and the way in which they are entering the UK.
This new approach is contained within the Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Action Plan, which was launched by Caroline Spelman, Secretary of State for Environment, on 18 October 2011.
The Action Plan sets out an integrated approach towards a strengthened strategy for dealing with serious tree and plant pests and diseases, the threats from which have increased with the expansion of global trade providing potential pathways for their entry into the UK.
It recognises that all trees, irrespective of whether they are in woodland, parks, gardens, streets, heathland, moorland or farmland, are at risk. It also recognises that some pests and diseases of trees affect a range of other plants, calling for an integrated, co-ordinated approach from all land management sectors.
The Plan was developed in partnership with Defra, the Forestry Commission, the Food & Environment Research Agency (Fera), the forestry and horticultural sectors and non-government organisations (NGOs) to ensure that the UK takes an integrated approach to tackling pests and diseases of trees and woodland ecosystems.
The Action Plan focuses on four key areas of activity:
• import controls;
• practical actions;
• research; and
• communications and public engagement.
The Forestry Commission's Interim Tree Health Biosecurity Strategyfor protecting woods and forests provides necessary direction for current activities. However, we will be reviewing the Interim Strategy in the light of the outcomes of both the Action Plan and the current review of the European Union’s Plant Health regime. The UK is fully engaged in the EU review, which is expected to report in 2012.
This intermediate progress report, published in June 2012, details the achievements made with the Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Action Plan. A further progress report will be published later in 2012.
Follow Forestry Commission tree pest and disease news on Twitter.