Infected larch trees on Arran to be cleared

Voice readers on Arran will be aware about the imminent felling of larch trees on the island. For those non Arran readers who may not be, here is a report from Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) explaining the situation. It also suggests ways we can help slow the spread of the Phytophthora disease. 

Residents on and visitors to Arran are being urged to help slow the spread of a fatal disease that affects larch trees as Forestry and Land Scotland’s South Region team prepares to tackle an outbreak on the island.

Phytophthora ramorum, which can infect a range of host species, causes particularly damaging infections on larch trees.
First found in Scotland in 2002, with infections on Scottish larch trees confirmed in 2009, and larch infections on Arran observed in 2013. The disease has had its most significant impacts on larch across south west Scotland, where the weather is known to be favourable for infection and spread.

Arran is one of several areas in the south and west of Scotland where the scale of infections has increased this year.
FLS’s local team is now working hard to schedule a programme of felling works to remove affected trees and has asked that members of the public lend a hand by following biosecurity advice to ‘Keep it Clean’.

Andy Walker for the FLS team on Arran, said;

“This is a horrible disease that can’t be eradicated and has no known cure. The only way we have to slow its rate of spread is to fell the affected larch trees.
“It will result in substantial changes to some well-loved landscapes over the next few years but if we don’t do this, then the long term impact will be even worse.
“That’s why we’re asking people to help by taking a few simple steps to help limit the spread of the disease to other sites on the island where the larch is so far unaffected.
“The spores that spread this disease can be carried to other sites in mud and forest debris – so please follow our ‘Keep it Clean’ advice and take a few minutes to brush or wipe off boots, bike wheels, tent pegs and even your dog’s paws before and after a visit to any woodland in the area.
“These simple measures will have a positive impact on our forests, help to slow the spread of tree pests and diseases and buy the time to research and develop other actions that we can take to ensure the long term health of our woodlands.”

Phytophthora ramorum has been confirmed at several places on the east/west/south of the island and felling work to remove affected trees will begin before Christmas. As work is carried out some sites will be closed for public safety and visitors are urged to follow diversion signs with advice to ‘Keep it Clean’.

The team will work on the necessary removal of affected Larch trees as Statutory Plant Health Notices are served by the regulatory agency, Scottish Forestry, with a view to fell additional larch areas over the next four years to proactively manage the impact of further infections in the area.

Sasha Laing from the local Scottish Forestry conservancy said;
“The location and scale of infections on Arran have required us to develop our local regulatory approach to look to achieve the best disease control outcomes over the coming years. The approach taken allows due consideration of the unique landscape of Arran and the capacity of the forestry sector to deliver these outcomes”

FLS is also working on replanting plans that will reduce the visual impact as much as possible.