Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, has today launched a revised strategy to help manage the spread of a disease affecting Wales’ larch trees.
The revised strategy will see the introduction of an updated disease management plan aimed at the ongoing management of the disease and incorporating the recent spread to larch in areas of Mid and West Wales.
Phytophthora ramorum is a fungus like plant pathogen that affects a range of plant and tree species. It was first found in the UK in 2002 on the rhododendron. In 2009 it was detected on larch trees in South West England and in 2010 it had spread to larch trees in the Afan Valley in South Wales.
Since then the disease has continued to spread through airborne spores that travel in water droplets and favour wet, windy conditions to disperse over large areas.
To help manage this spread of the disease, in 2010 the Phytophthora Management Strategy was put in place by the Welsh Government in consultation with public and private stakeholders.
The strategy led to the introduction of 2 disease management zones - a Core Disease Zone (CDZ) which does not require land owners to fell/destroy trees within a time limit and a Disease Limitation Zone (DLZ) which does require landowners to fell/destroy trees within a time limit to limit the further spread of the disease into unaffected areas.
Following the progression of the disease in recent years which has seen the spread of the disease into parts of Mid and West Wales, the strategy has been updated Creating a new Core Disease Zone (CDZ2) which incorporates Mid-West Wales from Brechfa to Dolgellau. In the CDZ2 there will be targeted aerial surveys undertaken, which will concentrate mainly on areas adjacent to the DLZ boundary.
Aerial surveys are carried out and concentrated in the DLZ targeting possible pathways from larger infections in the CDZs. NRW use local knowledge, existing disease spread data and meteorological data and ground-based surveys to detect the spread of the disease to this area.
If sites are confirmed to be infected NRW regulatory staff, in consultation with the landowner, will issue a Statutory Plant Health Notice which will prescribe the required treatment operations to be carried out within 3 years.
The new zone has been introduced to prevent significant wider social, economic and environmental impacts to local communities in Mid Wales affected by the increased spread of the pathogen.
Lesley Griffiths, the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, said:
“High quality woodland ecosystems can provide real benefits both on a local and national scale. We know that Wales’ woodlands enhance our landscape and increase biodiversity and we are committed to ensuring ecosystem services have the ability to respond to climate change and support woodland based industries
“We recognise pests, pathogens and invasive non-native species have significant potential to impact on the health of trees and woodlands in Wales. The refreshed strategy will play a key role in minimising the social, environmental and economic impacts of P. ramorum in the CDZ2 area whilst maintaining our commitment to managing the spread of the disease."