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Trees

Volume 496: debated on Thursday 16 July 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what proportion of trees in each region (a) had full crowns, (b) had slight defoliation, (c) had moderate defoliation, (d) had severe defoliation and (e) were dead in the latest survey conducted on behalf of his Department into tree health. (286358)

The last complete survey of forest condition was conducted by the Forestry Commission between June and September 2006. The total number of trees assessed was 8,184 and these included Sitka spruce, Norway spruce, Scots pine, oak and beech.

The data are not readily available by region but the total percentages are provided in the following table.

Class

Percentage of trees

Full crowns

26.1

Slight defoliation

48.0

Moderate defoliation

23.9

Severe defoliation

1.1

Dead

0.9

A limited survey of the condition of two forest tree species (Scots pine and oak) was undertaken between June and September of 2007. The total number of trees assessed was 3,744. The data are not readily available by region but the total percentages are provided in the following table.

Class

Percentage of trees

Full crowns

26.5

Slight defoliation

47.5

Moderate defoliation

23.8

Severe defoliation

1.1

Dead

1.1

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps (a) have been taken recently and (b) are planned to be taken to improve tree health. (286365)

The need to maintain, and improve where necessary, the health and vitality of trees remains integral to the Government’s approach to sustainable forest management.

Forest Research, the Research Agency of the Forestry Commission that is responsible for carrying out investigations into and providing advice on tree health issues, has recently been restructured to give greater emphasis to the impact of climate change on tree health. Its new Centre for Forestry and Climate Change researches the effects of environmental and climate change on forestry, and how the sector can play its part in adaptation and mitigation of climate change. The centre also develops entomology, pathology and environmental sciences in order to deliver holistic understanding of climate change and forestry.

As well as investigating the potential impacts of climate change, research is ongoing into a number of pests and diseases of current concern. These include:

Red Band Needle Blight which can affect a wide range of pines and other conifers.

Acute Oak Decline which is widespread and of complex cause, often involving recurrent drought, attack by root disease fungi and episodes of insect defoliation or mildew attack.

The horse chestnut leaf miner moth which causes browning and an autumnal appearance during the summer months and the bacterium Pseudomonas syringae pv aesculi as the causal agent of a serious, sometimes lethal, bleeding canker of horse chestnuts.

Oak processionary moth (Thaumetopoea processionea) for which the Forestry Commission initiated a contingency plan and is working in partnership with officials from the affected London boroughs and the Health Protection Agency, in an effort to eradicate the pest before it gains a firm foothold.

Phytophthora ramorum and Phytophthora kernoviae for which we have already announced a £25 million package which will support a five-year programme to manage and contain the risks of these two plant diseases.

Looking to the future, the Forestry Commission has recently announced plans to develop a risk management strategy and action plan to respond to the increasing biotic threats to UK trees and forests. It is aiming to have this in place later this year.