Effort in disease fight praised

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Forestry Commission Scotland has extended its thanks to woodland owners and managers across Scotland for their huge level of cooperation and support in working to help slow the spread of Phytophthora ramorum on larch.

A combined effort across the sector has been underway since late in 2010 when the disease first infected larch in the west of Scotland. However, those efforts were ramped up significantly following a marked surge in the disease in south west Scotland in 2013 when about 5,000ha of larch stands in that area showed some signs of infection.

So far this year, 14 harvesting teams on the national forest estate have felled 600 ha of diseased larch stands in the Galloway areas as part of a strategy to manage the disease and its impacts over the course of the next few years.

The surge in the speed, extent and impact of the disease in south west Scotland in 2013 is thought to have resulted primarily from the wet and windy conditions experienced in the previous year, although the terrain and distribution of larch stands in the area also contributed to the outbreak.

However, the much drier summer of 2013 has given us an opportunity to ‘catch up’ as this year’s aerial surveys have detected only about 50ha of new larch infections elsewhere in Scotland, and the rate of spread - and levels of infections - have also shown a very marked slow down in the south west of Scotland.

Although this respite is very welcome, woodland owners need to be on their guard that disease levels could rise again in response to favourable weather conditions – so the forestry sector needs to use the current respite as a time to catch up and get ahead of the disease.

Paddy Robertson, the Commission’s Tree Health Operations Manager, said; 

“Recent aerial survey results indicate that the rate of spread and impact of the disease has slowed very significantly compared to what we saw last year.

“The slowdown in the rate of spread is partly due to the impact of weather and favourable terrain but also due to the swift responses from woodland owners and managers in helping with early detection and subsequent actions to fell infected stands as quickly as possible.

“Felling infected trees before they can generate more of the spores that spread the disease is a major part of successfully slowing the rate of spread and reducing the impacts of the disease on other trees and the wider environment. Had we not experienced such a high level of cooperation from woodland-owners and managers we would have been in a much worse position in future years. 

“We wish to thank those woodland owners for their understanding and support as well as for their willingness to deal with the issue in such a professional manner. We also urge them to continue with those efforts rather than getting lulled into any false sense of security.”

The Commission is urging all woodland owners and managers to continue to be vigilant in a bid to continue to manage the disease to levels where it can be controlled as part of every-day forest management.

The Commission’s aerial surveys of Scotland in 2014 to check for the spread of the disease symptoms overflew more than 90% of known larch stands – identifying just under 400 potentially ‘suspicious’ sites, although subsequent ground inspections found that only 20 sites were new infections. A further 47 sites were inconclusive and will be revisited in the spring of 2015.

For more information visit http://scotland.forestry.gov.uk/supporting/forest-industries/tree-health/phytophthora-ramorum  

Notes to Editors
1. Forestry Commission Scotland is part of the Scottish Government's Environment & Forestry Directorate www.forestry.gov.uk/scotland

2.  For news, events and recreation information log on to
www.facebook.com/enjoyscotlandsforests For Twitter: www.twitter.com/fcscotlandnews

3. Tha FCS ag obair mar bhuidheann-stiùiridh coilltearachd Riaghaltas na h-Alba agus a' riaghladh nan 660,000 heactairean ann an Oighreachd na Coille Nàiseanta, a' dìonadh, a' cumail smachd air agus a' leudachadh nan coilltean gus buannachdan a thoirt dha coimhearsnachdan, an eaconamaidh agus, ag obair an aghaidh atharrachadh gnàth-shìde. www.forestry.gov.uk/scotland

4. Media enquiries to Paul Munro, Media Officer, Forestry Commission Scotland press office, 0300 067 6507 / 07785 527590

e-mail: paul.munro@forestry.gsi.gov.uk