The forestry industry is important to the UK economy and the counry
The forestry industry is important to the UK economy. An estimated £7.2 billion of gross value is contributed to the UK economy by the forest and wood processing industry. But the forests of the UK are coming under increasing attacks by pests and disease.
The worldwide trade of plants brings plant diseases and pests to regions that have no natural environmental countermeasures to resist these dangers. Climate changes make trees more susceptible to attack and can also encourage pests to migrate to new areas if they cannot adapt in their own area.
Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman has cited the alarming spread of sudden death oak syndrome and of the bleeding canker in chestnuts. The increasing incidence of oak wilt disease and the emerald borer are also causes for concern.
A recent study has shown that the spreading leaf miner caterpillar can quickly defoliate a horse chestnut tree, making it more vulnerable to attack from disease and pests. Native trees all over the UK are dying.
These trends can lead to ever increasing losses for investors in the forest industry and may discourage others from investing. However, investors can protect their investments by following some basic steps.
Investors should assess a lot’s risk for attacks by pests and disease before investing in it. The assessment should take into account the species of the trees, the patterns of disease in the region and the history of the lot in question. The company operating in the lot should be able to give the information needed for this assessment. An independent consultancy firm may also conduct the assessment for you.
After the investment is made, the next step is to protect the forest from disease and pests. As you plant new trees, select species that are suitable for the area. Special attention must be given to new trees as they are especially susceptible to disease and pests. Like people, trees need time to adapt to the climate and environmental conditions of new areas and to build immunity to the indigenous diseases and pests.
If trees do become diseased or infested, steps must be taken to prevent an outbreak. The best method for preventing outbreaks is called silviculture, which is the process of tending, harvesting and recovering lost stands. Silviculture employs a wide range of methodologies. The methodology that is used depends on whether the investor is interested in conserving the forest or selling the timber.
Among the methods employed by silviculture are protecting the healthy trees by removing dead or infected trees, planting species that are more resistant to the disease, and converting the make-up of the forest from trees of various ages (called uneven management) to trees of the same age growing in the same fashion (called even management).
Finally, investors should consider insuring their investment. Of course, insurance cannot prevent disease or infestation, but it can help recover any losses. Insurance companies can help assess the risk and provide several options for the investor.