Forestry

The sector represents a major component of Scotland’s rural economy – providing significant employment and raw materials for wood processing industries.  Sustainable forest management seeks to deliver these economic benefits alongside important ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration and flood mitigation, provision of wildlife habitat and opportunities for recreation and a range of leisure activities.  Pests and diseases threaten the continued long-term delivery of these benefits.

The forest area of Scotland expanded during the twentieth century through the efforts of the Forestry Commission and private owners to develop a domestic wood supply and provide rural employment.  A number of introduced species, such as Sitka spruce, were key to afforestation of marginal agricultural sites and now are central to the wood processing industry.  Woodland now occupies approximately 17% of the land area of Scotland and provides 44% of the GB softwood harvest, producing about 1.5 million m3 of sawn softwood.  Plant health threats to the forestry sector include a number of recently introduced pests and diseases (e.g. Phytophthora ramorum, pine tree lappet moth, ash die-back), on-going management of endemic ones (e.g. large pine weevil and Heterobasidium annosum) and risks of those yet to arrive (emerald ash borer, Ips typographus and many other organisms potentially introduced through trade in plants, wood and packaging).

Projects

Project Lead: Kirsty Park
Xylella fastidiosa is a bacterial plant pathogen that can cause disease in a broad range of hosts, including Polygala myrtifolia, Olea europaea, Rosmarinus Officinalis, Lavandula sp., Prunus sp. and Nerium oleander. Disease symptoms include leaf scorch, wilting of foliage, dieback and plant death. Xylella fastidiosa was first detected in Europe in 2013 in Puglia in Italy and was identified as subspecies pauca which has gone on to devastate olive plantations in this region. There are currently major Xylella outbreaks in Southern France, including Corsica, Italy, mainland Spain and the Balearic Islands. The bacteria are transmitted by xylem feeding insects from the Cercopidae family, which include froghoppers and spittlebugs.

There are several species of insects that could vector Xylella fastidiosa in the UK including the meadow spittlebug (Philaenus spumarius), which is very common in Scotland. An outbreak of Xylella in Scotland would have serious impacts on the affected grower/nursery and any other host plant-related activities/business within a 5km buffer zone. Therefore, in order to establish the potential for these bacteria to spread, should they be introduced, it is important to identify and get an understanding of the abundance of potential Xylella vectors in Scotland. The WrEN project (http://www.wrenproject.com/), presents a unique opportunity to make use of existing insect collections to map the occurrence of potential Xylella vectors within agricultural woodlands across Scotland. Since 2013, partners on the WrEN project have surveyed over 130 secondary and ancient woodland sites for habitat and wildlife in two regions of mainland Britain. To date, over 1100 species have been recorded from a wide range of taxa. Vegetation structure has been characterised at all sites including information on tree species richness, tree density and size, understorey and canopy cover. In addition, the surrounding landscape has been mapped at a range of spatial scales up to 3 km from each site.

Impact: This project will contribute to Scottish Government’s preparedness measures for the possible
arrival of Xylella fastidiosa by identifying and mapping the distribution of potential vectors of Xylella
in Scotland.

Publications

Difficult choices to protect gardens and the environment

Authors: Katy Hayden
September 2018

Heritage gardens play an important role in plant conservation. They house collections gathered over decades or even hundreds of years, including varieties of plants that may be overlooked elsewhere, fostering heirloom varieties and preserving biological diversity that is the raw material of adaptation. As well as being beautiful and tranquil sites of cultural heritage, these ex-situ resources are treasure troves of biological diversity. Arduaine Gardens shows us that tough choices can be necessary and important to preserve these collections and the surrounding environment.