Published: 12 April 2017
The Forestry Commission have served Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust (TCCT) notice to fell diseased larch trees in an area of Occombe Valley Woods known as the East Down Plantation.
This is a 4 acre site made up of predominantly Larch, which would have been planted as a crop around 50 – 80 years ago. The Larch became infected with Phytophthora ramorum (p.ramorum) last year and, in order to prevent the spread of the disease, it is vital that the trees felled as quickly as possible. P.ramorum is a fungus-like microorganism which causes extensive damage and can kill a wide range of trees and other plants.
The environmental and economic impacts can be serious if P.ramorum levels are allowed to build up in the environment, so early felling is essential to minimise the risk of the disease spreading to neighbouring trees and other plants. Currently it is only the Larch that has been infected and every effort will be made to keep all the remaining tree species in the area. However in order to access the Larch some of these other trees will have to be removed.
Larch is a non-native tree species and so has limited benefit for our native wildlife. This therefore provides the Trust with a fantastic opportunity to help improve the woodland for wildlife by re-planting with a mixture of native tree species including Oak, Birch, Cherry and Field Maple. The Forestry Commission have provided a grant to help cover some of costs of re-planting and TCCT will be using its own resources to make up the shortfall.
Damian Offer, TCCT Director said: “Whilst the felling of any trees can be emotive we are keen to reassure local residents that this will be carried out sensitively and within the guidelines issued.
Once the Larch has been removed we will be keen to encourage local community involvement through re-planting days, planned for the coming winter.”
The larch felling is due to start after Easter and is likely to take 3 – 4 weeks. During this time and in the interest of public safety many of the surrounding footpaths will be closed and members of the public are asked to observe the warning signs in place.
For further information please contact: Sarah James, Marketing Officer on 01803 520 022.
More information on Phytophthora ramorum
The P. ramorum organism is thought to have originated in Asia, and was first found in the UK in a viburnum plant in a Sussex nursery in 2002. It was first found affecting larch trees in large numbers in Devon and Cornwall in 2009, after rhododendron plants in the forests became infected. It has since affected larch forests in many parts of the UK, mostly, but not exclusively, in western regions, where the wetter climate suits it better. The Forestry Commission has since undertaken an annual programme of aerial surveillance across the UK to detect signs of ramorum disease as early as possible so that rapid action can be taken to minimise its spread and impact. The only treatment available is to destroy affected plants as quickly as possible – preferably before they can produce the spores which spread the disease - to protect other plants in the area from becoming infected. For more information about the disease, including symptoms and the management programme, visit: www.forestry.gov.uk/pramorum .