Forestry Journal:

This piece is an extract from our A View from the Forest (previously Forestry Features) newsletter, which is emailed out at 4PM every Wednesday with a round-up of the week's top stories. 

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IT would be easy to underestimate the threat posed by pests and disease to the UK's trees. Some may even go so far as to accuse forestry officials of having done just that in the past (but that's a discussion for another time and another newsletter). But what we can say for now is that the urgency of the situation is shifting. 

Earlier this month, the British government announced it was putting an extra £4 million into the Forest Research Alice Holt Research Station in Surrey. For those not in the know, the Alice Holt hub is where FR's brightest and best lead the fight against the many lurking threats in the nation's woodlands, whether that be Phytophthora ramorum, Ips typographus, or even the newly rediscovered Curreya pithyophila; which recently reared its ugly head, took one look at the UK's Scot's pine population, and decided it wanted some of that.

This cash boost will expand the capacity of the existing Holt laboratory by almost double, with much of the focus going on the multitude of beetles determined to chew their way through the country's best timber stock. 

Forestry Journal: Vital work is carried out at the Alice Holt hub Vital work is carried out at the Alice Holt hub

 “We are committed to protecting the country’s tree health and maintaining biosecurity to ensure our trees and woodlands are resilient to fight climate change," said biosecurity minister Lord Douglas-Miller in a press release.

“Building on the existing vital work of Alice Holt will be a key part to achieving this.”


This will surely be music to many foresters' ears. Recent decades have seen havoc wrought by more pests and disease than they'd care to remember, with new threats emerging at a worryingly rapid rate. 

Ips is the obvious one – and the very idea of this establishing itself across the UK will be enough to keep forest managers awake at night – but there are others that loom over the horizon. According to the experts, Xylella fastidiosa’s arrival in the UK is a question of when, not if. The pathogen has made light work of olive trees in France and Italy. 

With this in mind, the Alice Holt investment is welcome news. But it's just a start.