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Defra restricts oak movements to tackle moth threat

Restrictions on the import of several species of oak into England are in place. This is part of regulatory plans to protect native trees from oak processionary moth (OPM).

The new regulations ban the movement of certain oak trees into the UK’s OPM Protected Zone. This area is free of the pest according to the EU. The ban shall be upheld unless the trees meet specific conditions. They cover both imports from overseas and movement of trees from areas of the country where OPM is already present.

The measures cover all oaks (Quercus) – except for cork oak (Quercus suber). These have a girth of 8cm or more at 1.2 metres above the root collar and come from either the EU, a third country or moving into the Protected Zone from other parts of England. This is because such trees represent the greatest likelihood of introducing OPM.

The regulations apply to all businesses which import and move OPM vulnerable trees.

Crucial Steps

Defra chief plant health officer Nicola Spence spoke on the matter. “Protecting our country from tree pests and diseases is vital to safeguard our environment, economy and our health.

“That is why we are introducing tighter restrictions on the importation of oak trees to England. We must movement of oak trees out of certain parts of South East England infested with OPM.

“Through investment, research and legislation we will continue to help protect our oak trees for years to come.”

OPM caterpillars feed on oak leaves and can increase trees’ vulnerability to attack by other pests and diseases. This makes them less able to withstand adverse weather conditions, such as drought and floods.

The Forestry Commission, and councils tackle the pest affecting London and several other counties. It does this with an annual control programme of tree treatment.

The new restrictions follow the launch of the Government’s first Tree Health Resilience Strategy in May. It has pledged tough action to protect the nation’s trees from pests, diseases and climate change. A key element of the strategy is the Action Oak campaign which seeks to protect the UK’s 121 million of the trees for future generations.

The new OPM legislation is published at the following location: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2018/910/contents/made.

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