One of the main ways that that tree pests and diseases can enter the UK is through imports of wood, wood products and isolated bark. At the Forestry Commission, we work with businesses and industry to reduce the threat to our trees, woods and forests from imported material.
We implement plant health regulations which specify import restrictions and requirements designed to protect the natural environment and plant-based industries from the introduction of harmful tree pests and diseases. This includes insects such as the Asian longhorn beetle, fungal pathogens or bacteria.
If new tree pests and diseases were to establish in the UK, the impacts could be potentially devastating for trees and woodlands.
Each year, Forestry Commission inspectors carry out around 10,000 physical checks of consignments at the border. Inspectors look out for signs and symptoms of tree pest or disease activity including tracks or marks in wood made by insects or staining and damage caused by harmful organisms. If a pest or disease is suspected, material is sent to Forest Research who analyse samples in the lab.
In the last two years there have been over 300 interceptions at the border of non-compliant wood packaging material associated with all kinds of goods being imported into the UK.
Licence and movement
We also issue licences, for example to research institutes who work with prohibited forestry pests and symptomatic material to allow them to import or move that material. In the long-run, research will help us understand more about the threats to our trees and forests so we can become better prepared.
Inland, we work with businesses and landowners who have been affected by tree pests and diseases already established in the UK. In some cases, landowners are required to fell affected trees to stop or slow down the spread. For example in relation to Phytophthora ramorum working with industry, we issue wood processing and movement licences to operators in the UK and carry out audits of authorised processors to help reduce the risk of spread to new areas.
We are all responsible for the health of our trees, woods and forests. If you trade in wood and timber products, visit https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/importing-and-exporting-wood-and-timber-products to find out how you can help.