I was interviewed recently about work I am helping lead on the British Woodlands Survey with the Sylva Foundation— this year exploring adaptation to environmental change. The piece was featured this morning BBC Radio 4 Farming Today.
Gabriel Hemery being interviewed for BBC Radio 4 Farming Today, 11 September 2015
I had arranged to meet BBC journalist Ruth Sanderson at the University of Oxford’s Wytham Woods, perhaps one of the most studied woodlands in the UK, along with its Conservator Nigel Fisher. It was an ideal location to discuss environmental change and how woodland owners can respond, especially given the breadth of research underway in the woodland. I have supervised the work of two Oxford graduates in Wytham Woods; the first studied cord-forming fungi, and the current student is researching ash dieback.
BBC Radio 4 Farming Today
You can listen to the programme again here.
If you own or manage a woodland, or work as a professional in the forestry sector, the Sylva Foundation and its partners are keen to hear your views about environmental change. Please do try to find the time (15-20 minutes) to complete the survey.
Please take the survey
European Forest Week 2013
Europe’s forests are thriving—make the smart choice and use them responsibly—so says the Food & Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations.
Europe leads the way in sustainable forest management, both politically and practically, being the only global region where forests are growing in volume and expanding in area. The forest sector in Europe is playing a lead role in “greening” the economy by improving human well-being and social equity, while reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities.
The idea behind European Forest Week, which runs from 9 – 13 December, is to celebrate and raise awareness on the good health of forests in Europe.
Some of the main messages of European Forest Week
- Wood— the smart choice in your daily life and the renewable way to build, heat and furnish your home
- Healthy forests safeguard Europe’s future
- Sustainable forests contribute to a sustainable economy
- Using forest products, the smart choice, will reduce our environmental footprint
- Innovative wood products are the future – from traditional wood products to the latest high-performance engineered products, quality wood products meet traditional and modern structural needs.
- Have you seen your green factory, visited by millions of people every year?
European Forest Week – official webpage
Biosecurity – preventing the introduction and spread of harmful organisms – is big news at long last! The arrival of Chalara fraxinea in Britain has brought this important issue to the fore. However, I found it difficult to find simple guidance on the steps we should take when visiting or working in woodlands, or with individual trees in our trees and cities. Many of the record number of readers of this blog over the last week have found it after using searches such as:
“what should I do if I find Chalara fraxinea?”
“how do I clean my boots?”
While we wait for more detailed specific advice to come from scientists and Government officials in relation to Chalara fraxinea it would be prudent to follow the protocols developed to minimise the spread of another pathogen; Phytophthora. So my first recommendation is to visit the Forestry Commission’s webpage on Biosecurity Measures, which includes the advice currently given to all Forestry Commission staff for their routine visits to woodlands in a handy pdf guide.
I have put together the following simple guide on woodland biosecurity.
Brushing boots to disinfect and sterilise
- Clean your footwear after visiting a woodland. Wear Wellington boots, as these are easier to clean thoroughly. To do this effectively you must remove first all soil and leaf litter from your soles. You will need water and a stiff hand brush.
- If you have been to a high risk site apply a detergent to sterilise them, although it is good practice after all visits.
- Sterilise your tools. Be careful that the chemicals you use do not harm trees (or other wildlife). Read more about sterilising forestry and woodland tools.
- If you drive into a woodland, even on a road, wash your tyres to remove soil and leaf litter.
Biosecurity personal kit
Spraying boots to sterilise with Propeller disinfectant, after they have been brushed to remove soil
The most common question I’m asked is what chemical should I use to sterilise or disinfect. The one recommended, or at least adopted, by the Forestry Commission currently is Propellar™. This is available only directly from one supplier (see below) and must be ordered wholesale in 12×1ltr containers as a minimum order. I was amazed when I searched the websites of two of the major forestry and arboricultural supply companies that neither had any disinfection chemicals listed. This is really shocking! Try it yourself. Go to Google.co.uk and enter a search string that allows you to search within a certain website (you will need to know the url of the forestry/arb supplier): try “site:sxxxxxxxx.co.uk disinfectant sterilise” [replace the url with the supplier’s]. I’d be happy to be proven wrong but I’ve not found one yet that came up with any goods.
Propellar spray to sterilise forestry equipment
Propellar™ – chemical to sterilise footwear and equipment (always read the Health & Safety label). The supplier for the disinfectant Propellar™ is:
Evans Chemical Supplies,
18B Barncoose Industrial Estate
Tel. 01209 213643
Email: Evans Chemicals
- handbrush – to remove soil from boots
- disposable gloves – protection from chemicals used
- safety goggles – protection from chemicals used
- water container (e.g. 5L for personal/15L for groups) – to carry water in vehicle for cleaning after visit
- airtight storage container – to hold brush and chemicals
- soap and towels – to wash hands
- bags – to dispose of material
- storage box – to hold all biosecurity items together
If you have advice born from experience or other comments then I would be pleased to hear from you. Use the Comment box then you can share your experiences with other readers.
Finally, this advice can be followed by woodland owners, arboriculturists, foresters and anyone who accesses woodland regularly. Whether it is practicable or feasible for the average member of the public to adopt these measures is doubtful. Nonetheless, we can lead by example and on high risk sites or those with special high value (e.g. ancient trees or important habitats) particularly, it may be possible to erect signage or equipment to encourage visitors to undertake simple biosecurity measures.
After probably the largest-ever rapid survey of Britain’s woodlands, new incidences of Chalara fraxinea, the fungal pathogen that causes ash dieback, have been found in a possible 100 sites across the East and South of England.
After the announcement last week that Chalara fraxinea was in the ‘wild’ in the countryside of East Anglia in England, Forestry Commission staff have undertaken an unprecedented rapid survey. Every 10km square in Britain where ash trees were likely to be found was targeted, selecting four sites in each sampled square. The news is not good, as I predicted (see post).
Chalara fraxinea is present possibly in at least 100 sites, rather than the two where it was originally reported just one week ago. In addition to new confirmed sightings in Kent, possible occurrences extend to the Midlands and even Wales (see Forestry Commission latest map). Note that these are still to be confirmed officially but samples collected from many seem indisputable, even without any scientific analysis.
Today I visited Wayland Wood in south Norfolk as part of a specialist task force convened by Government. We viewed an area where hundreds of coppice stools of ash had succumbed to dieback (see pictures below).
Observing the branches of one more mature tree (with a stem about 30cm dbh) it was clear that this tree had suffered dieback during Summer 2011. This means that the Chalara fraxinea was present in Britain at least one whole year before realised, as indicated from tree physiology alone. When accounting for the life-cycle of Chalara fraxinea, then it is more likely that it was present from Summer 2010 if not even earlier. It is clear that the pathogen arrived in Britain by stealth before anybody recognised it.
Click to enlarge images
Map of possible sightings of Chalara fraxinea following the unprecedented rapid survey in esarly November
Necrosis caused by Chalara fraxinea on the wood of a young ash stem
Lesion on young ash stem caused by Chalara fraxinea
Evidence of ash dieback from Summer 2011 at Wayland Wood Norfolk. The central stem from Summer 2011 is long dead and the tree has recovered to grow a new leader during 2012 to the right.
Boundary between healthy stem and area inffected by Chalara fraxinea
Ash leaves drooping but not dropping due to Chalara fraxinea. The leaves have died before they abscise as would be normal in the Autumn.
Ash dieback in coppice with oak standards—close-up
Ash dieback in coppice with oak standards at Wayland Wood
Ash dieback in coppice stools caused by Chalara fraxinea
A stakeholder meeting is to be held on London today, and more details will emerge about the sightings that I report here. Scientists are working around the clock to confirm observations made in the field, by using sophisticated DNA sampling techniques on collected samples. Further expert groups are being set up and all concerned are working hard to provide practical advice to foresters, arboriculturists, nurseries and others.