Britain’s iconic oak trees under threat from climate change and pests
Scientists from six universities are reporting that native British oak trees, the English oak and the Cornish oak, are becoming increasingly vulnerable to pests and climate change. The experts believe that the iconic oak trees should be replaced with more resilient species.
There are 121 million oak trees in Britain. Many are losing their bark from weather stress, while pests like the processionary moth are stripping them of their leaves. The findings of a study from universities including Oxford and York suggest that it would be better to plant tougher oak trees such as the American red oak or the Austrian Oak.
Study co-author Professor Rob Jackson is a biological scientist at the University of Reading.
“Britain’s oak trees are part of its cultural landscape, but they could look very different in future. The oak is a key component of woodland ecosystems in the UK and so its decline would have a much wider impact on other species, like fungi, insects and even humans,” said Professor Jackson.
“Humans have long been influential in the management of oak trees, as it was historically used for many activities including use for buildings, and charcoal production for metal smelting, thus it was planted widely.”
“Now humans must take action to protect our oaks for future generations. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, so forest managers need support to face the specific challenges facing different forests and put in place long-term strategies.”
According to Daily Mail, Britain’s native oak trees are also threatened by acute oak decline, chronic oak decline, and powdery mildews. The major problem with eliminating British oaks, however, is that they support thousands of species of fungi and bacteria, most of which are not supported by foreign oak trees.
“I welcome today’s Protecting Oak Ecosystems event to highlight the important work undertaken to address the serious threats to our iconic oak trees. It is inspirational to see so many people gathered together to discuss this critical issue,” said Defra Biosecurity Minister Lord Gardiner.
“The learnings from this project will feed directly into our Action Oak initiative, a collaboration of charities, government, landowners and research institutions whose aim is to protect the UK’s 121 million oak trees from plant pests and diseases.”
The findings were presented at the Royal Geographical Society in London.
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