Forests are constantly under threat from environmental factors such as climate, pests and diseases, but they are a natural part of forest ecosystems and make an important contribution to the biodiversity of our forests. As the climate warms up and rainfall patterns shift, trees may suffer water stress, making them more susceptible to attack by insects, bacteria, viruses and fungi. Similarly, a warmer climate may favour the development of some organisms that were previously benign.
The increasing global trade in forest products, plants and the use of wood packaging material means that there are many ways for pests and pathogens to escape their native habitats and enter the UK. In recent years several new pests and diseases have been found in the UK, some of which, such as the Great Spruce Bark Beetle, have become established and caused a significant economic impact. Vigilance is vital.
With this in mind, keeping British forests healthy is essential to maximizing CO2 absorption and minimizing CO2 release. To help acheive this the Forestry Commission Plant Health service inspects all timber entering Great Britain from outside Europe. In addition our Forest Research agency has several programmes aimed at understanding and assessing the risk that some of these organisms can pose, particularly in response to climate change. These form an important line of defence in monitoring any changes in the health of our trees as well as providing advice on common tree disorders and how to manage them.