News, stories and reports from Forestry Commission Scotland and the National Forest Estate

Keeping our forests healthy

Scotland’s forests are under increasing threat from tree pests and diseases due to rises in global travel and trade resulting in the introduction of new species. The impacts of these, and our native pests and diseases, can be intensified by climate change. Pests and diseases can spread rapidly, damaging the health of our trees and forest ecosystems, and negatively impacting the forest industry.

We are working with a wide range of Scottish stakeholders to manage and mitigate the risks of tree pests and disease, and with other Government departments to help prevent new arrivals. This includes liaising with plant health colleagues across the UK and further afield to keep abreast of the latest threats, monitor their progress and act to prevent their spread.

scots pine landscape

Keep it Clean

keep it clean

We launched our Keep it Clean biosecurity campaign, to raise awareness and encourage adoption of good biosecurity practice. We have provided a range of materials to promote the campaign to both our staff and the general public and these have already featured at a number of events, seminars and conferences.

The readily identifiable graphic and simple biosecurity message have won positive comment and have been embraced by partner organisations such as Woodland Trust Scotland and Forestry Commission England.

The next phase of the campaign will be targeted at other forestry and arboriculture professionals working across the sector.

UK National Tree Seed Projectscots pine cone

We engaged with colleagues at Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank, signing up to the UK National Tree Seed Project - the world’s most ambitious plant conservation initiative. It aims to establish a comprehensive and genetically representative seed collection of native UK tree populations to serve as an insurance policy against extinction and to create a vital resource for researchers working to develop more resilient woodlands across the UK. Read more here

Plant Health in Scotland, the UK and EU

We contributed to the development of the Scottish Plant Health Strategy along with Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture, Scottish Government Plant Health colleagues and representatives from the private sector and the plant trade. The Scottish Strategy is a tailored approach to Scotland’s unique circumstances and focuses on helping to safeguard agriculture, horticulture, forestry and our natural environment from plant pests.

We are also involved in developing and updating the UK Plant Health Risk Register (2014) and supporting the development of the new EU Plant Health proposals.

Phytophthoras

The 2015 aerial surveillance for Phytophthora ramorum flagged up 353 suspect larch sites. Of these, 35 were
found to be affected by this disease with new infections generally restricted to areas with known infection or on sites with larch trees already under some sort of stress.

We have also reviewed our processes for dealing with Phytophthora lateralis and Phytophthora austrocedri on juniper following reviews of the Pest Risk Analyses - when new outbreaks in the wider environment are discovered, statutory action is no longer the first resort. However, we will continue to work in collaboration with conservation organisations and other stakeholders to mitigate the risk and protect unaffected areas where possible.

p.ramorum

Xylella fastidiosa

Until its discovery in Italy in 2013, this disease was previously restricted to the Americas and to Taiwan. Affected shrubs were also found in France in 2015. It has not yet been found in the UK.

One of the bacterium’s four sub-species has a very wide host rangeaffecting trees such as oak, elm and plane. It has also caused significant damage to the urban tree landscape in US regions as far north as New York.

The EU Plant Health Standing Committee agreed updated emergency measures to improve preparedness within the EU. These included:

  • a requirement for all EU member states to maintain contingency plans, to help with preparedness;
  • a planting prohibition in demarcated areas;
  • movement restrictions for host plants from demarcated areas; and
  • awareness raising – all EU member states must carry out targeted awareness campaigns to inform the trade and public about the threat from X. fastidiosa.

We also enacted Scottish legislation in March 2016 in response to the extension of statutory notice requirements regarding the import of Prunus genera, requiring that importers notify us of the arrival of any trees within this classification “in advance or no later than 5 days of landing”.