Scientists look to radical change in the fight against forest pests

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14 JULY 2011NEWS RELEASE No: 14777

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A radical new way of tackling the insect pests that are an increasing problem for Welsh tree growers - from the nursery through establishment to the final crop - is being developed by scientists in Wales.

Pests such as the pine weevil, Hylobius abietis and its close relative the vine weevil, Otiorhynchus sulcatus, are already causing major damage and the effects are expected to get worse under climate change.

Now the IMPACT project (Integrated Management of Forest Pests addressing Climate Change) - which looks at tree pests and climate change - is developing a new way of tackling the threat.

And on Tuesday 19 July at the Royal Welsh Show this new integrated approach – to be developed with land owners and managers who will bring their knowledge and experiences of growing trees – will be outlined to the new IMPACT Project Stakeholder Group. You are invited to join the presentation and discussions at 11.30am at the Confor marquee in the Forestry Section.

“In the past we have focused on the individual pest,” said Professor Hugh Evans who leads IMPACT, which is co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the Ireland Wales Programme (INTERREG 4A), COFORD and Forestry Commission Wales.

“Now we believe there must be a major change in the way we work,” he told a meeting of the consortium behind the project at Swansea University last week.

“There needs to be a mind set shift so that we manage the whole tree growing process, even at the forest scale, taking into account the many variables that can affect the way we anticipate and manage pests.

“Our job now is to bring this integrated approach together in a single coherent management system which foresters and land managers will be able to use to tailor the right measures to each area of forest at each stage of of its growth from the nursery to the mature tree.”

The IMPACT team, which includes specialists from Forest Research in Wales, National University of Ireland, Maynooth and Swansea University, is looking at every component of the forest management process.

“Every single aspect needs to be considered if we are to beat threats, such as pine weevil, which are already having a dramatic effects on our forests – and which will only increase as climate change continues to bite,” said Prof Evans.

“In the past we have used conventional techniques such as use of chemical insecticides, but we have to work smarter than that, both to predict pest infestations and develop sustainable long-term control methods.

“We have to take into consideration everything from prevailing temperature, rainfall and wind conditions to soil type, woodland structure and management regimes and, ultimately, the choice of tree species that we plant.

“Decisions taken today need to account for future pest threats and this is where the climate change modelling from the Maynooth team is being linked to the pest management expertise here in Wales.”

Already research work is delivering results on use of natural methods of control – nematodes and fungi – to link to population trends of pests under different climates.

Contact: Professor Hugh Evans, Forest Research in Wales, tel 0300 068 0079.


IMPACT – Integrated Management of forest Pests Addressing Climate Trends - is part funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the Ireland - Wales Programme (INTERREG 4A) and part funded by Forestry Commission Wales. It is led by Forest Research in Wales, a research unit launched in 2009 based at Aberystwyth, with the National University of Ireland at Maynooth and Swansea University. It runs for three years to 31 December 2012.

Forest Research is the research agency of the Forestry Commission. It is a world leader in the research and development of sustainable forestry and is Britain's principal organisation for forestry and tree related research, with specialists covering topics from managing timber, and protecting woodland from climate change, to tracking new pests and diseases, and examining the social and community benefits of woodland in urban and rural areas.

The newly established Forest Research in Wales Unit based in Aberystwyth looks at research opportunities within Wales and elsewhere. Interactions with a wide range of stakeholders, particularly with Forestry Commission Wales and the Welsh Government, are being developed to scope and deliver research and appropriate technology transfer. Links with the research community in Wales, universities and government organisations are also being developed.

Swansea University is a world-class, research-led university situated in stunning parkland overlooking Swansea Bay on the edge of the Gower peninsula, the UK's first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Founded in 1920, the University now offers around 500 undergraduate courses and 150 postgraduate courses to more than 13,800 students. Visit

National University of Ireland, Maynooth is one of four constituent universities of the federal National University of Ireland. The university traces its origins directly to the foundation in 1795 of St Patrick’s College, Maynooth and it is Ireland's second oldest university.

About 14% of Wales is covered by woodlands. Of this, 38% (126,000 hectares/311,000 acres) is owned by the Welsh Assembly Government. Forestry Commission Wales is the Welsh Assembly Government’s department of forestry and manages these woodlands on its behalf.

More information on the woodlands of Wales is available on