It’s not often in my line of work that you get asked to be in film – and if I am honest it’s not something I would normally jump at either! But in this case I was more than delighted to help to raise awareness across the sector and publically on the increasingly serious issue of new tree pest and diseases that are being found in the UK.
It is a matter of record that the trend in recent years has been for an increased frequency in the detection of new tree pests and diseases being discovered in the UK, with around a dozen in the first decade of the new millennium as opposed to only a couple in the previous few years. Unfortunately many of these pests/diseases have, or have the potential to have, a major impact on both the biodiversity and timber value of our woodland resource. But what is more unfortunate is that many of these pests/diseases are being brought into the UK and then moved around through our own actions.
Here are just a few recent examples: the Oak Processionary moth, with the allergy-causing hairs on its caterpillars which is now causing problems both for our native oaks and also people in London, first entered the UK on large oak trees bought into the country for a landscaping project. Phytophthora ramorum – a fungal like pathogen which has so far led to the death and felling of hundreds of hectares of Larch plantations in the South West, Wales and Northern Ireland – was introduced into the UK on infected rhododendrons from Europe and then moved around the UK through the onward movement of infected plants. It’s also possible that some of the movement of this pathogen has been on spores picked up in the mud of infected sites and transported by visitors using the woods. And the recent outbreak of Asian Longhorn beetle, a beetle with an appetite for young broad leaf trees, was caused by the beetle “hitching” a ride in the wood of pallets used to transport stone from Asia. These are just a few examples.
There is clearly therefore much that we can all do to help control both the importation of new pest and diseases but also to help minimise the spread once they are here. So please view the information films which focus on the Phytophthora ramorum outbreak, part of wider campaign by Government. The messages each film include about how you can play your part in helping to prevent the spread of this pathogen, apply generally to all tree diseases.
If you don’t have the time to view the video then there is also this FERA Countryside Poster which contains the key messages as well (download free).
And if you are a Hollywood agent and you are interested in me for a movie role I can be contacted via the Woodland Trust!
Andy Sharkey, head of woodland management