New threat to Britains oak trees

New threat to Britains oak trees

Acute Oak Decline (AOD), a bacterial infection affecting native oaks in Britain, is causing mounting concern among tree and forestry organisations – many of which believe it could be even more deadly than Dutch Elm Disease.

There are now 55 cases of the disease confirmed at sites in the East of England, Southern England and the Midlands, with a steadily growing number of suspect sites still to be confirmed.

At the Royal Forestry Society’s annual conference at Stoneleigh, Warwickshire, pathologists and plant health officials talked about the potential impacts of AOD, which affects both pedunculate and sessile oaks – the two species native to the UK. 

After the initial infection, the tree shows signs of bleeding on its stems and areas of dead bark appear. This is followed by rapid die back and death, often within a three- to five-year period.

Research into acute oak decline is taking place, despite a severe shortage of cash within forest research. Meanwhile, the results of an application to Defra for funds to support a more coordinated approach on tree diseases will not be known until 2011.

For some, like Peter Goodwin of Woodland Heritage, this isn’t soon enough. “We’re looking at a disease that has the potential to change our landscape even more than Dutch Elm Disease, and nothing is being done about it,” he said. “We can’t afford a repetition of what happened then – action is needed now.”

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