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This month, regular walkers at Western Common near Lasham may see some activity as felling gets underway on site.
Tree felling is a standard part of good woodland management and helps encourage healthy tree growth while providing timber for local businesses, but this programme of activity undertaken by the Forestry Commission will be more significant than usual.
Over the past few years, the tree disease Phytophthora has been affecting the southern beech trees at Western Common. The disease is found across Britain and while a specific strain is generally recognised as a threat to the larch tree, the Phytophthora pseudosyringae pathogen is known to attack beech trees, causing root rot and eventually killing the tree. In order to control the disease in Western Common, the Forestry Commission has taken the decision to remove around 26 hectares of southern beech.
Nick Hazlitt, Beat Forester, said:
“Tree diseases are a very real threat to English woodlands today. At the Forestry Commission our role is to protect, expand and improve our forests. This includes finding ways to identify and combat the spread of disease, and in the south of England alone, we’re the guardians of around 30,000 hectares of woodland.
“Over the past few years we’ve taken significant strides forward in tackling tree disease with extensive research into the behaviour and spread of diseases. We’re also looking at different management techniques and species diversification, carrying out plant trials to identify trees that are resilient to disease. In some cases, felling is required to eradicate disease. Despite previous attempts to slow the spread of the disease, we’ve decided to remove around 26 hectares of southern beech – planted by our research arm, Forest Research, in the 1980s. This will hopefully combat Phytophthora and make way for new, more resilient woodland based on a different range of tree species.”
To ensure no wood goes to waste, the southern beech felled at Western Common will be sold into the local wood fuel supply chain. The income generated will then be reinvested in preparing, protecting and planting the site. It will be replanted with a mixture of new species designed to make the woodland more sustainable and more resilient to disease and climate change in the future.
“We’ve not yet decided what the exact species mix at Western Common will be, but our aim is to plant a variety of species that will create a robust and resilient mix of trees, some of which will be around for hundreds of years, not just decades. We’ll also use this as an opportunity to enhance wildlife habitats and provide timber for the local economy, in turn protecting the woodland for future generations and ensuring it’s as sustainable as possible.”
Harvesting will begin this month and is expected to last a number of weeks. During this time, visitor and staff safety at Western Common will be a priority. Warning signs will be put in places where work is being undertaken, and it is important visitors keep a close watch on their group – including dogs – and pay attention to signs to ensure their safety and that of others.
Ground preparation will take place in due course when conditions allow. The site will be fenced to protect young trees from browsing by hares, rabbits and deer and new trees will be planted in the autumn/winter of 2015.
Notes to editors:
1. The Forestry Commission is the government department responsible for forestry in Great Britain. It supports woodland owners with grants; tree felling licences, regulation and advice; promotes the benefits of forests and forestry; and advises Government on forestry policy. It manages more than a million hectares (2.5 million acres) of national forest land for public benefits such as sustainable timber production, public recreation, nature conservation, and rural and community development. For more information, visit www.forestry.gov.uk/newforest.
Katrina Podlewska, Forestry Commission Senior PR and Partnerships Officer, tel 0117 9066030 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Simon Gill at Camargue PR, tel 01242 577277 or email email@example.com