Trees at risk in disease outbreak

SEVERAL species of Suffolk trees are at serious risk as four diseases threaten the county’s landscape.

Oaks, pines, horse chestnuts, larches, sweet chestnuts and Douglas fir are all under threat as researchers try to find a way of controlling the outbreaks.

Mike Seville, forestry and woodland adviser for the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), said: “In 35 years of working with timber I cannot remember a time when our trees were under so great a threat.

“At least with Dutch elm disease only one species was affected, but now we have acute oak decline in oaks, red band needle blight on Corsican pine and Scots pine, which make up around four-fifths of the trees in Thetford Forest, and bleeding canker and leaf miner on horse chestnuts.

“Coming from the South West is phytophthora ramorum, the rather confusingly named ‘sudden oak death’ which is killing larch and affecting Douglas fir and sweet chestnut.

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“Research has been underfunded for years so that now when we are facing this potential disaster, we simply do not have the vital knowledge we need to enable us to tackle such a variety of pests and diseases.”

Mr Seville added: “It is not overstating the case to say that in a very short time we could lose some of our much loved woodlands and commercial forests.

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“With them will go the beauty of our landscapes, a vast range of wildlife habitats, a timber resource and vital carbon sequestration at a time of climate change.”

The CLA is now urging the government to increase funding for research into these diseases and pests, and advising anyone working with trees to maintain strict hygiene and report signs of disease to the Forestry Commission.

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