17 Jan 2023

Restrictions on felling and timber movement to be lifted following disease risk assessment

Restrictions on the felling and movement of timber from demarcated areas in Scotland affected by the tree disease Phytophthora pluvialis will be lifted as of 24th January 2023.

This move follows research which showed that the risk of the disease spreading via timber material is low.

While further research is conducted, demarcated area movement restrictions will remain in place for plants for planting.

There are currently two demarcated areas in Scotland: in Wester Ross and Argyll, with a third to be introduced on the Isle of Bute on 24th January. Maps of the areas can be accessed here.

James Nott, Scottish Forestry’s Head of Tree Health said:

“When P. pluvialis was first confirmed, collaborative working between governments as part of the UK Plant Health Services led to quick action being taken at sites across the UK to limit the spread of this disease.

“We are satisfied that the research that has been undertaken into the disease indicates that spreading the disease through the movement of timber is deemed to be low. We believe therefore that some restrictions can be lifted. We will review other restrictions as ongoing research provides more evidence.

“I’d like to urge the forestry sector to remain vigilant and continue to check their trees, particularly western hemlock and Douglas fir, for any signs of the disease.”

Restrictions will be lifted on the felling and movement of Western hemlock, Douglas fir, tanoak and pine species wood material (timber, bark and cut trees) from uninfected sites within the demarcated areas.

Statutory Plant Health Notices will remain in place at confirmed infection sites and will continue to be used where any new outbreaks of P. pluvialis are detected.

Timber felling and movement restrictions were introduced in December 2021 as a precaution following the first discovery of P. pluvialis in Scotland. 

P. pluvialis is a fungus-like pathogen which causes needle cast (where needles turn brown and fall off), shoot dieback, and lesions on the stem, branches, and roots.

The disease had never been found in Europe before so little information was initially known about which UK tree species could be infected, how severe the infections might be and ways the disease might spread.

The Scottish Forestry website has more information about the disease and please continue to report any possible sightings via the Tree Alert online system.