Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘environment’

Ash dieback spreads in British countryside

October 25, 2012

Gabriel Hemery

Chalara fraxinea ash dieback distribution map in Britain

Ash dieback caused by the pathogenic fungus Chalara fraxinea has been confirmed on woodland trees in the British countryside.

In this case I am not happy in being proven correct in my prediction of just two days ago, see Ash dieback could devastate Britain’s landscape, that the disease was in all likelihood already loose way beyond the tree nurseries where it was first reported. As Britain’s third most common tree species, the consequences are indeed very serious.

The outbreak in East Anglia was confirmed today by plant scientists from the Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera). Ash dieback Chalara fraxinea was found at two separate sites: (1) the Woodland Trust’s Pound Farm woodland in Suffolk, and (2) Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s Lower Wood nature reserve near Ashwellthorpe. These are the first confirmed reports following the initial import of the disease on plants brought in from the continent by a Buckinghamshire nursery, which subsequently distributed ash plants to some 90 customers across the country. The location of these initial plantings is not public knowledge.

Download the latest national map of confirmed Chalara outbreak sites

Download the latest national map of confirmed Chalara outbreak sites from the Forestry Commission

[UPDATE] I prepared initially my own Google map to mark these first countryside outbreaks. The Forestry Commission have subsequently been releasing a national map of confirmed outbreak sites on a regular basis, so instead I now provide a link to their online map here (it is quite a large pdf file so allow some time for it to download).

Gabriel Hemery

Read more:

Trees are in our blood

July 4, 2012

Gabriel Hemery

Our Forests member Jonathon Porritt, explains why he thinks it is that we love our forests and trees so much we are willing to fight to protect them. Watch the film.

Our Forests responds to IPF report

July 4, 2012

Gabriel Hemery

Our Forests has issued a short response to the Independent Panel on Forestry’s report issued earlier today.

Robin Maynard, coordinator, Our Forests said,

“The Panel’s report offers reassurance on many, but not all, of the concerns of Our Forests and the many grassroots campaigners and forest community groups who stood up for their patch of our public woods and forests – forcing the Government to halt its disposal plans.
It is particularly welcome to see our number one demand endorsed by the Panel – namely, full and lasting protection for our public woods and forests – in their proposal that the Public Forest Estate be held in trust for the nation under a new public ‘Charter’. Yet despite making several references and citing strong evidence as to the tremendous ‘value for money’ of the Public Forest Estate in delivering public goods and services, some worrying language has slipped in – bearing the hallmark of the free-market ideologues in the Cabinet Office and Treasury.”

The response reviews in outline how the recommendations of the panel may meet the six demands put to Government by Our Forests.

Our Forests view on independent panel on forestry reportRead the statement from Our Forests

Independent Panel on Forestry report published

IPF final report July 2012
IPF final report July 2012

Download the full IPF final report July 2012

The much heralded report by the Independent Panel on Forestry on the future of forestry in England was released this morning. It is anticipated that the Government will take until January 2013 to consider the Panel’s recommendations and that the suspension on sales of public forests will be extended until it publishes its response. Caroline Spelman, Secretary of State for the Environment, will be issuing a written statement later this morning.

Here’s a quick summary of the central messages:

A woodland culture for the 21st century

  • Urge society as a whole to value woodlands for the full range of benefits they bring. We call on Government to pioneer a new approach to valuing and rewarding the management, improvement and expansion of the woodland ecosystems for all the benefits they provide to people, nature and the green economy.
  • Government and other woodland owners to give as many people as possible ready access to trees and woodlands for health and well-being benefits – this means planting more trees and woodlands closer to people and incentivising more access to existing woodlands.
  • Ensure that land-use creates a coherent and resilient ecological network at a landscape scale, by integrating policy and delivery mechanisms for woods, trees and forests in line with the principles in the  “Making Space for Nature” report, published by the Lawton Review.
  • Urge Government, woodland owners and businesses to seize the opportunity provided by woodlands to grow our green economy, by strengthening the supply chain, and promoting the use of wood more widely across our society and economy. These and other actions should be set out in a Wood Industry Action Plan

Making the vision a reality – the role of our national forestry organisations

  • Propose that the public forest estate should remain in public ownership, and be defined in statute as land held in trust for the nation. A Charter should be created for the English public forest estate, to be renewed every ten years. The Charter should specify the public benefit mission and statutory duties, and should be delivered through a group of Guardians, or Trustees, who will be accountable to Parliament.  The Guardians will oversee the new public forest management organisation evolved from Forest Enterprise England urge Government to ensure that the new organisational landscape makes specific provision  for international and cross-border arrangements, working closely with the devolved Parliaments on sustainable multi-benefit forestry implementation, research and in the international arena.

In the Introduction to the report the chair of the panel Bishop James Jones wrote some of the most eloquent words about our forests and woods that I have read in a long while:

Our forests and woods are nature’s playground for the adventurous, museum for the curious, hospital for the stressed, cathedral for the spiritual, and a livelihood for the entrepreneur. They are a microcosm of the cycle of life in which each and every part is dependent on the other; forests and woods are the benefactor of all, purifying the air that we breathe and distilling the water of life. In short, trees are for life.

Bishop James Jones, Chair, Independent Panel on Forestry. July 4th 2012

The ginger group Our Forests will be releasing a statement later today.

Gabriel Hemery

Other resources related to the IPF Report

Sweet chestnut blight found in Britain

March 22, 2012

Gabriel Hemery

The fungus that wiped out 3.5 billion chestnut trees in the USA has been found for the first time in Britain. Chestnut blight, caused by the fungus Cryphonectria parasitica (C. parasitica), has been confirmed by Forest Research scientists on trees in two small orchards of European sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa). The trees were imported by an English tree nursery from the same grower in France. The sites in Warwickshire and East Sussex are the first findings in Britain. Until now, the English Channel had prevented its spread from mainland Europe.

The fungus infection is usually fatal to European sweet chestnut and its North American relative, Castanea dentata, although it appears to be less virulent in Europe than it is in America. It is believed to have first originated in Eastern Asia before being introduced to North America in the late 19th Century, where it has since devastated billions of trees in the East of the country (see The American Chestnut Foundation). It was first identified in Europe in 1938, in Italy, and has since spread to most parts of southern Europe where sweet chestnut is grown, and to parts of northern Europe.

Identifying chestnut blight

The most obvious symptoms of chestnut blight are wilting and die-back of tree shoots. Young trees with this infection normally die back to the root collar, and might re-sprout before becoming re-infected. Other symptoms, such as stem cankers and the presence of fruiting bodies can also occur.

What now?

The trees where the fungus were discovered had been imported into the UK for nut production. As I have written before (e.g. Climate Change and Global Trade), the import/export of trees is potentially the most significant factor in the spread of new tree pests and diseases. Case proven I think.  Let’s hope that FERA (Food & Environment Research Agency of the UK Government) is given adequate resources to tackle this very serious fungus. Afterall, sweet chestnut is a beautiful tree species in our forests and when coppiced, as it is in commonly in Kent (see Sweet Chestnut Coppice), it is one of the few forest systems that pays well and regularly.

Gabriel Hemery

England’s forests in 2050 – looking back from the future

January 12, 2012

Gabriel Hemery

Our Forests

Barrow Wake panorama

Where we could be – with vision, national effort and political support

England’s woods and forests are embraced as vital to the health, wealth and well-being of the Nation and its people – recognised as having a key role in curbing climate change and enabling human society and wildlife to contend with its impacts. The more frequent and violent cycles of drought and downpour predicted by climate scientists at the end of the last century are now a reality. Our woods and forests are classed as a national network of strategic natural defences.

Following the country-wide outcry against its plans to dispose of England’s public woods and forests, the Coalition Government of 2011 changed tack, turning public brick-bats to bouquets by granting the Public Forest Estate (PFE) full and lasting protection. It received international acclaim following the UN International Year of the Forest with a commitment to restore England’s tree-cover over the next 50 years back to what it was at the time of the Domesday Book in 1086 – around 15% of our total land area.

This effort proved to be all the more urgently needed following the near decimation of our native oaks by a series of invasive diseases, benefiting from England’s warmer, wetter climate. Spending on research into pests and diseases was substantially increased, with strong public support.[1]

Unable to refute the hard evidence of the economic, environmental and social benefits delivered by well-managed woodland, the Treasury approved a long-term budget line for this visionary initiative – unleashing a collective effort from local communities, councils, businesses, private landowners, conservation groups and public bodies across the country. By 2050, over half a million hectares of new planting has been achieved – England’s 21st Century ‘Domesday Forest’ is on-target. As well as helping the country withstand and adapt to the impacts of accelerating climate change, new woods and forests are making communities across England better places to live, pulling in investment and creating thousands of new jobs.

An equal effort has been directed at bringing long-neglected woodland into positive management. Tens of thousands of privately-owned and community-run woods hum with activity – delivering valuable harvests of timber and fuel for heating homes in addition to providing vital ‘social services’ of carbon-storage, flood protection and a thriving network of wildlife habitats.

By 2050, England’s precious heathland habitats have been cleared of inappropriate plantations and returned to their former purple glory. Our remnant ancient woodlands long overdue protection as ‘the jewels in our woodland crown’, form the cornerstones of the Domesday Forest – all those damaged by coniferisation are now under restoration.

Forty years back, foresters and those seeking to make a living from woodland were an endangered species. In 2012, England’s woods and forests supported just over 100,000 jobs [2]; in 2050, there are double that number, requiring people with a wider range of skills to maximise the many and diverse benefits that well-managed woods provide. Jobs for young people – a key concern in 2012 – have been boosted by the much sought-after National Forestry Apprenticeship Scheme.

As thousands of long-neglected, shaded-out woods have been brought back into active management, so the numbers and variety of woodland wildlife have burgeoned. With sunlight once again reaching the under-storey, dormant seed-banks have sprung to life – bluebells and other woodland plants carpet the forest floor. The decline of woodland birds has been reversed – the nightingale’s liquid song is no longer confined to poet’s verses.

For all the efforts by individuals, communities, private woodland owners and commercial foresters, this vision could not have been realised without the leadership and strategic oversight of Forests for England – the publicly accountable successor to the Forestry Commission. Forests for England (FfE) is tasked with sustaining the character and diversity of England’s existing and future woodland, while ensuring the long-term commercial viability of our woods and forests. Its advisory and research role is underpinned by decades of practical experience on what is still known as the Public Forest Estate (PFE).

To those familiar with the jargon, what FfE does is ‘integrated land use’. To the rest of us, that means making sure our woods and forests offer they best they can, hectare for hectare, for the good of all – producing valuable timber and fuel, providing access and recreation for people, protecting homes and businesses from flooding, and helping our wildlife to hold on during this period of rapid change through a network of linked habitats.

In 2011, politicians questioned whether the country could afford to care for our woods and forests. In 2050, woods and forests are central drivers of a booming low-carbon economy. Vibrant markets exist for timber, woodfuel and carbon-capture. No urban development is conceivable or permitted without an equivalent investment in green infrastructure – trees, woods and forests are as integral to our urban quality of life as energy, water and sewerage systems.

Something else. Beyond their obvious strategic and economic value, the effort to renew England’s woods and forests has drawn people together, creating a sense of community, place, well-being, and that most elusive of cultural concepts, national identity – which like our woods and forests, seemed under threat in 2011.

Reproduced from Our Forests – a vision for England’s woods and forests


1 UK government launches tree biosecurity plan

2 Figures for 2008 taken from the Annual Business Inquiry 2009 and Office for National Statistics regional gVA December 2009 published by the Office of National Statistics.

%d bloggers like this: