Disease threat to oak trees

IS OUR landscape about to suffer harmful change once more?

I refer to concern over an obscure new disease which is affecting the oak - a species of tree which helped define the spirit of this nation.

Having lost millions of elm trees - another iconic British species - to disease in recent decades, forestry experts fear we are now at risk of losing similar numbers of oaks.

A virulent new disease known as Acute Oak Decline (AOD) is thought to be spreading rapidly across the country and has already been identified here in East Anglia, including one near Woodbridge.

The disease, caused by a previously unknown bacterium, causes trees to “bleed” a black substance and die back.

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It often kills them within five years and foresters believe it could devastate the countryside and urban parks.

Dutch elm disease has killed an estimated 25 million elm trees in Britain over the past 40 years and we can do without further carnage.

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The Forestry Commission has positively identified 55 sites across southern England, the Midlands and East Anglia which have so far been infected by AOD but conservationists believe many more cases will be confirmed.

The positive identifications have been the result of reports from woodland owners and managers but there has been no systematic survey, an exercise which would cost a lot of money and time.

Owners and managers have little idea how to deal with the problem.

They need advice on whether infected trees should be felled and burned but relatively little research has been carried out so far.

A MORATORIUM on commercial whaling could be lifted later this year after being maintained for nearly 25 years.

The International Waling Commission – set up to conserve whale stocks, not to protect the species from hunters – is expected to approve an annual quota for Japan and Norway which both kill whales under the guise of what they call “scientific research”.

The quota move is seen as a way of at least controlling the annual slaughter of these intelligent animals.

You cannot kill a whale humanely and for this reason, even if there is a demand for whale meat, the slaughter cannot be justified.

I’M pleased that two independent panels have already given a resounding vote of confidence in the credibility and integrity of climate change scientists at the University of East Anglia. Three other inquiries are still to report but it seems that an attempt to undermine the professionalism of the UEA team has failed - too late of course to prevent the slurs causing uncertainty at the Copenhagen summit earlier this year and, arguably, helping to engineer its collapse.


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