Lifeline to save nation’s mighty oaks | Nature | News


The nation’s 121 million oak trees, which can live for 1,000 years and once provided timber for Nelson’s Navy, are under attack as never before.

The threat has been exacerbated by the global trade in plants which allows the accidental importation of pests, such as beetles.

Oaks are vital for wildlife, supporting up to 300 species of insects, 30 types of birds such as woodpeckers and nuthatches, and 300 lichens.

Biosecurity Minister Lord Gardiner will today reveal Government backing for a campaign to investigate the health of oaks and how to protect them.

It is building on a £37million Government commitment to tree and plant research. The Action Oak Partnership is seeking to raise £15million for research.

The campaign is backed by Prince Charles and Oscar-winning actress Dame Judi Dench who revealed her love of trees in a recent documentary.

At the Chelsea Flower Show Lord Gardiner was to say: “Protecting our country from pests and diseases, so our trees and plants can thrive, is a priority for this Government. We are proud to be backing this campaign.

“The partnership is a one-off opportunity to shape the future of our oak trees and make sure they continue to have a place in our landscape.

“The combined knowledge of all the organisations involved will be vital in protecting these majestic trees, contributing to help us be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we found it.”

Duchy of Cornwall head forester Geraint Richards said: “The oak is our most important tree, an iconic species and the provider of numerous benefits to us and our environment.

“We must do all that we can to preserve the health of our oak trees for future generations.”

The Woodland Trust’s Beccy Speight said: “We need to take a serious look at the threats our trees and woods are facing.

“As we approach a post-Brexit world, we need to take opportunities to make the UK’s landscape more resilient, and combat invasive pests and diseases head on.”

“Our shared responsibilities span from ensuring the supply of new, UK-sourced saplings to better care for our ancient trees.”

Last month the Royal Horticultural Society said Brexit will give Britain the chance to improve its approach to plant health and to stop imports of diseases such as Dutch elm.

Threats to oak trees include acute oak decline, which may be linked to a bark beetle, wilt disease caused by fungus, the American bacteria Xylella fastidiosa and processionary moths.

The partnership is backed by bodies including the Woodland Trust, Woodland Heritage, National Trust, Royal Botanical Gardens Kew and the Forestry Commission.



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