The Woodland Trust have been forced into action after the devastating discovery that larch trees at Wentwood Forest, near Newport, have become infected with Phytophthora ramorum.
First found in southwest England four years ago, the deadly fungus has been spreading across the UK, spelling disaster for Wentwood’s larchess as well as conifers in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The felling is taking place over an area of 500 acres (200 hectares) and it will cost the Woodland Trust £35,000 to replant the area. Andrew Sharkey, head of woodland management for the trust, has said that this is “the most serious and devastating action we’ve had to take on our estate”.
Wentwood Forest is home to large numbers of flora and fauna, including 75 species of bird, and is all that remains of the extensive tree cover that once spanned the land between the Rivers Wye and Usk. It was much depleted in the early 20th century in order to provide timber for World War I trenches and this further action will certainly have a negative short-term impact.
Despite this, the Woodland Trust hope that their actions will slow or even prevent further spread of the disease. Indeed, felling the imported conifers will help to accelerate and encourage growth of native trees in the long term.