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Discovery of tree pathogen at Wester Ross site sparks cordon and plea to Highland public from Scottish Forestry to help prevent its spread

By Philip Murray

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The tree pathogen has been found near Loch Carron.
The tree pathogen has been found near Loch Carron.

A NO-GO area has been thrown up around a Wester Ross woodland site after a fungus-like tree pathogen was detected near Loch Carron.

As well as movement restrictions, Scottish Forestry has also called on woodland managers, landowners, the forest industry and tree nurseries to be vigilant following the discovery of P.pluvialis near Loch Carron.

The public are also being urged to do their part to prevent its spread by cleaning their shoes, bike tyres and pet’s paws before and after visiting Highland woodlands.

P.pluvialis is a fungus-like pathogen known to affect a variety of tree species – including western hemlock, Douglas fir, tanoak and several pine species (in particular radiata pine).

It can cause needles to turn brown and fall off, cause shoots to dieback, and also results in lesions on the stem, branches, and roots.

It was only found for the first time in the UK in 2021 on western hemlock and Douglas fir and has now been detected in Devon, Cornwall and Cumbria in England and now near Loch Carron.

For more information on P. pluvialis a symptom guide has been prepared based on what has been observed in England. Landowners are asked to report any suspect trees via TreeAlert.

Lorna Slater, Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity said: "Following the established biosecurity protocol we are taking swift action against this finding of Phytophthora pluvialis. We are imposing a movement restriction in the area of the find at Loch Carron and will continue targeted inspections at potential high risk sites across Scotland.

"We are asking the forestry industry and landowners to help tackle this pathogen and avoid its spread. Please check the health of western hemlock and Douglas fir trees on your land. Key symptoms to look for are lesions on the stem, branch or roots and report any suspect tress via Tree Alert immediately.

"We also want to emphasise that everyone visiting the countryside and our woods can help prevent the spread of pests and pathogens by taking simple steps and ensuring they clean their shoes, bike tyres and pet’s paws before visits. Everyone has a part they can play in protecting our woodlands."

As the disease has never been detected in Europe before, research is ongoing to understand if other potentially susceptible species could become impacted. This will help inform which control measures are appropriate and the potential impact this pathogen could have on the landscape and the forestry sector.

Scottish Forestry said it will continue to work with partner agencies across the UK to share information, experience and understanding to ensure a joint approach to monitoring and managing the situation.

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