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Can the UK keep out tree diseases? - a view from Professor Nicola Spence

Can the UK keep out tree diseases? – a view from Professor Nicola Spence

by Angus ~ 16 April, 2019 ~ comments welcome

Recently, I met up with Nicola Spence, the UK's Chief Plant Health Officer: her observations took me on a hair-raising tour of the battlements that keep British trees safe from foreign invaders. To give an idea of the importance of plant health she pointed out that in the 1960s and 1970s Dutch Elm Disease from Europe killed between 10 and 20 million trees; the recent Ash Dieback (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus), which also came from continental Europe, is in the process of wiping out about 80% of the UK's ash trees. Consequently her department is very vigilant to stop any further invasions of pathogens or insects that could attack our trees. For example Defra and the Forestry Commission have successfully dealt with localised outbreaks of Sweet chestnut blight and in Kent there was a recent infestation of trees by the Asian Longhorn Beetle which meant cutting down and incinerating all trees within a 100 metre radius.

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A northern forest

A northern forest

by Angus ~ 18 January, 2019 ~ comments welcome

There is a plan to create a massive northern forest in the UK.  There is a logic behind this in that the UK has only some 13% woodland / forest cover.  This is low as compared to the european average.   More trees will result in more carbon dioxide being absorbed from the atmosphere, helping with global warming, and also helping the Government meet its 2050 carbon emissions targets.  The trees will also hopefully enhance the environment, providing habitats and niches for many plants and animals; including us, offering places to walk and unwind.

The plan is to dramatically increase the woodlands and tree cover along the M62 corridor Read more...

Robustness and the resilience of woodlands.

Robustness and the resilience of woodlands.

by Lewis ~ 28 September, 2018 ~ 2 comments

Over the centuries, our woodlands have experienced (to a degree) a relatively stable environment - both in terms of climate and biological ‘incursions’.  There have been occasional ‘perturbations’ some climate or weather related - such as the Great Storm of 1987 and some biological such as Dutch Elm Disease in the 1970’s.

Our woodlands have been managed largely on the basis of this stability - a relatively constant biological and physical environment.  However now, climate change is an established fact and the number of biological threats to our native flora and fauna has increased significantly in recent times.   Climate change has seen the advance of Spring and more ‘extreme weather’ [for example, drought, high winds] plus the large scale movement / importation of trees, timber and plants from many different parts of the world has lead to the introduction of various pathogens and pests.  Read more...

"The Fight for Beauty" - Fiona Reynolds' book on the British countryside

“The Fight for Beauty” – Fiona Reynolds’ book on the British countryside

by Angus ~ 13 April, 2017 ~ one comment

"People will only protect what they care about, and they will only care about what they have experienced" according to David Attenborough.  On this basis, Fiona Reynolds argues that we need to help the public to have easy access to the British countryside and to do conservation in a hands-on way rather than leave it all to professionals.  We must help people touch and feel trees and woodlands if we want them to be valued.

"The Fight for Beauty" is a 320 page book containing a magnificent account of the efforts to preserve British landscape, species and habitats in the 60 years after the war but as Reynolds admits it is still true that, "nature protection remains weak" and habitat loss has been severe as we continue to witness the sixth mass extinction eventRead more...

More productive forestry trees (and Dr Steve Lee).

More productive forestry trees (and Dr Steve Lee).

by Angus ~ 24 November, 2016 ~ comments welcome

Since 1960 commercial trees in the UK have become about 25% more productive.  This has been achieved through selective breeding, mostly of Sitka Spruce and Scots pine where plants have been chosen for their rapid growth.  It has also led to better quality timber which produces more sawlogs.  Unfortunately according to the Forestry Commission's Steve Lee, no similar effort has been made with broadleaved trees so they have suffered a relative disadvantage compared to the progress with conifers.  He says, "We dropped tree selection for broadleaved trees in the 1960s because it was thought to be not worthwhile."

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Hedgerow loss.

Hedgerow loss.

by Lewis ~ 28 October, 2016 ~ 4 comments

Much has been written about the loss of hedges / hedgerows over the last fifty to seventy years; one important work was   “Hedges(1974) in the New Naturalist Series by Pollard, Hooper and Moore.  They suggested that hedgerows were lost perhaps at a rate of some 3,000 miles per year in the immediate post-war period (1946 - 63).   In the 1950’s, the Forestry Commission suggested that there was one million kilometres of hedgerow (in the U.K).   In 2007, The Countryside Commission Survey estimated that there was some 477,00 kilometres of hedgerow -  suggesting that there had been a halving of hedgerows in the countryside.  Read more...

A brief history of the Forestry Commission

A brief history of the Forestry Commission

by Peter ~ 18 January, 2015 ~ 3 comments

The Forestry Commission was set up shortly after the First World War to replenish forests and woodlands after felling during that war. At the beginning of the 20th Century the UK’s woodland coverage was at an all time low – just 5 per cent of total land area. The Acland Committee reported to Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, in 1918 that state organisation would be the most effective way to bring about reafforestation and plan for the future of British woodland. Thus, the Forestry Commission was set up and began to buy land and plant on it. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s the Forestry Commission voraciously bought land, which by 1934 totalled over 900,000 acres. Read more...

Stick and flick, a possible solution to dog mess in woodlands?

Stick and flick, a possible solution to dog mess in woodlands?

by Angus ~ 13 December, 2013 ~ 18 comments

Dog mess has been a long-term problem in woodlands. As dog owners have been forced to clean up after their dogs in parks and streets over the last 15 years or so they have not always been so good at "picking up" in public woodlands or on footpaths in private woodlands. This could be because dog owners don't feel a need to clear up in "the great outdoors" or it could be that some people feel they are not being watched and can "get away with" leaving the dog's doings. A more charitable view is that in woodlands people leave their dogs to roam more widely and dog mess * left without the owner seeing what has been done or indeed exactly where it was done. Read more...

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