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Action being developed by Forestry Commission Scotland and the forestry sector will look to maximise every opportunity arising from efforts to tackle a serious disease that is affecting larch trees in Dumfries & Galloway.
Phytophthora ramorum, which kills larch trees, was first found in Dumfries and Galloway in 2011.
Recent surveys have found it is now widespread in the region and a number of new, smaller outbreaks have been found in other parts of Scotland.
Felling or killing infected trees and other larch nearby is normally necessary to slow down the rate and extent of spread.
In a new move, the Commission has appointed John Dougan, currently its Conservator for South Scotland, to work full-time on leading the development and management of a co-ordinated response to the new threats posed by Ramorum on larch in Scotland.
Environment & Climate Change Minister, Paul Wheelhouse, visited Galloway Forest Park to be fully briefed on the latest developments surrounding the P ramorum outbreak.
“The eradication of Phytophthora ramorum across Britain is no longer thought to be achievable so we will have to accept that it is here to stay, which is all the more frustrating because this is a disease that has probably initially arrived in Scotland on imported plants.
“However, by working closely with the forestry sector we can take targeted action to help slow down and reduce the extent of new infections. We can also put in place plans to maximise the use of larch timber arising from the need to fell infected trees and those in close proximity to them.
“It is a matter of real concern that Dumfries and Galloway’s population of larch trees has been very badly affected and we will be concentrating our recovery efforts in this area, while also closely monitoring other parts of Scotland for new outbreaks and taking decisive action to get on top of them.
“However, I am confident that while it will take time for the sites to recover, the focused, strategic approach being taken by Forestry Commission Scotland will ensure that opportunities to restore and enhance the forests of this beautiful area of Scotland will be maximized.”
Larch trees constitute a relatively modest but nevertheless important part of Dumfries and Galloway’s forests, making up around 7 per cent of the forest area (see notes to editors).
Within Galloway Forest Park, much of the larch can be found in highly visible areas, often close to key Commission visitor centres, walking and mountain biking routes.
The Commission is ensuring that positive opportunities from the outbreak are grasped. For example, a fresh look will be taken at forest ‘restructuring’ options , including those in the Galloway Forest Park, to make these areas more resilient and attractive for the future.
Forestry Commission Scotland’s forest district manager in Galloway, Rob Soutar, added:
“Members of the public travelling around Galloway Forest Park this summer will have seen many larch trees which are discoloured or dead, especially around our visitor centres.
“We are developing plans on how best to tackle this while also reducing the impact on access and recreation.
“The Forest Park very much remains open and visitors are extremely welcome but we would ask that everyone make them selves aware of and observe the biosecurity guidance that is available online.”
Although unintended spread of Ramorum by people and vehicles can occur it is clear that the movement of spores over several miles in mists, air currents and watercourses has been the most important factor in the south west Scotland outbreak.
Visitors can help reduce the spread of the disease by taking simple steps to remove mud from their boots, clothing, bicycle or buggy tyres, and pets’ feet before and after their visit. Extra care should be taken before subsequently visiting other woodland areas or parks and gardens.
Biosecurity guidance is available from the Forestry Commission Scotland web site at http://www.forestry.gov.uk/pdf/FC_Biosecurity_Guidance.pdf/$file/FC_Biosecurity_Guidance.pdf and from the Scottish Government’s Plant Health Team at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/Doc/355511/0120087.pdf
More information can be found at www.forestry.gov.uk/pramorumscotland
The disease poses no threat to human or animal health.
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/fcscotland
3. The 7% figure equates to approximately 10,000ha (+/- 20%) and it is currently estimated that 4,000 – 6,000ha is infected.
4. 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