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The Pine-tree lappet moth Outbreak Management Team has reviewed the latest monitoring results and scientific advice and has decided that the control measures employed in the Beauly catchment can be relaxed. One of the main benefits of this decision is that active forest management in the area can now resume.
First found near Kiltarlity in 2004, control measures have been in place since 2009 when the first breeding population in GB was confirmed. (2)
In some countries in continental Europe the caterpillars of this large moth have caused periodic, large-scale damage to pine plantations.
The initial precautionary measures - restricting timber and foliage movement in the moth’s 'active period' (1 March to 30 November) by only allowing the transportation of bark free timber – effectively restricted timber haulage to the three winter months. In the meantime research effort has focused on population monitoring, life-cycle assessment, climate modelling and DNA investigations into the origin of the PTLM population.
Stewart Snape, Deputy Head of Plant Health for the Forestry Commission and Chair of the Outbreak Management Team, (with members drawn from Forestry Commission Scotland, Forest Research, SNH, ConFor, and Butterfly Conservation Scotland) said.
“The initial precautionary measures were taken in direct response to the potential risks that this moth posed to the immediate and surrounding forests.
“Recent research evidence suggests that the moth population is not increasing or expanding its breeding range, so the Outbreak Management Team has agreed that restrictions can be eased. (4)
“Local owners had expressed concern that the restrictions may hamper active forest management. However, before any relaxation of the restrictions could be considered, it was vital to ensure that this moth did not pose a significant threat to the wider forest resource.”
The headline changes are:
• Timber movement restrictions will be reduced from 9 months of the year to 3.5 months (mid-May to end August).
• The area to which the timber movement restrictions will apply has been reduced significantly.
• Christmas tree restrictions will be reduced to allow movement from 1 November to 25 December (previously 1 December to 25 December).
• The option to move bark free timber within the restricted period will also remain available. In addition, if owners can demonstrate their woodland does not have a breeding population then no timber movement controls would be applied that season.
To support these changes, practical biosecurity measures and monitoring will remain in place throughout the higher risk and lower risk 'outbreak zone'.
Pheromone traps will also be sited near receiving mills, and contingency plans for the aerial control of this (and other potential moth pests) will be developed by Forest Research should that unlikely need arise in future years.
In the lower risk area i.e. outside the ‘breeding population’ area but within the overall control area, there will be no restrictions on timber movement other than implementation of practical biosecurity measures.
1) Forestry Commission Scotland serves as the Scottish Government’s forestry directorate, managing, protecting and enhancing the 660,000 hectare national forest estate in ways that deliver benefits to Scotland’s people, communities, biodiversity and economy. www.forestry.gov.uk/scotland
2) Extensive DNA investigations have shown that the Scottish PTLM population is distinct from northern and far western European populations and is most closely matched to populations in southern and eastern Europe. It has not been possible to prove that the Scottish population is a recently arrived pest from overseas and it remains possible it could be a previously undiscovered native species (it has not been captured at any of the 10 ancient Caledonian pine sites monitored to date).
3) There remains a risk of PTLM populations increasing in breeding areas. Owners will therefore be encouraged to undertake glue-banding as a low-impact control measure.