Disease eradication costs lives of 11,000 trees
TENS of thousands of trees have been felled in Cardinham Woods near Bodmin to try to prevent the spread of a deadly disease which affects Japanese larch.
Staff from the Forestry Commission began working in December on clearing 11,000 trees in Cardinham and have now moved on to carry out similar work in Dunmere Wood. The felling programme is expected to be completed next month.
The mass tree felling is an attempt to eradicate ramorum disease in parts of the South West.
The disease, which is caused by the fungus-like pathogen Phytophthora ramorum, was discovered infecting Japanese larch for the first time in the world in south-west England in autumn 2009.
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As well as being killed by the disease, larch trees also produce very high quantities of the infective spores that spread it.
John Ebsary, area forester for Cornwall, said: "Cardinham larch-felling is now completed, with the timbers at roadside. The Dunmere larch-felling is now under way and will be completed shortly.
"It's disappointing having to fell trees before they reach full maturity, but the trees are dying from this highly destructive disease, and we have to try to contain it and prevent any further spread."
Duchy College conservation students have been helping with the project.
Nick Taylor, the college's conservation programme manager explained: "Japanese larch is the worst affected; the trees host and spread the disease, so the commission is having to remove large areas of them.
"However, the areas will be replanted with native broadleaved trees, and in the meantime the clearings are excellent habitats for wildlife, which we're helping the Forestry Commission to make even better.
"We're setting up a project with them to cultivate butterfly food plants at the college and then plant them back out into the newly cleared areas.
"The students learnt a lot from the experts and had the opportunity to get involved with some of the conservation work by planting dog violets transplanted from a nearby nature reserve. This area's already been cleared and the flowers are being planted to create suitable habitat for the pearl-bordered fritillary, a very rare butterfly in Cornwall."
Former Duchy College student Chris Mason, now a ranger for the Forestry Commission, gave the students a tour and explained the conservation projects and specialist machinery that have had to be brought in to help fell the larches.