The Scotsman has reported that Scottish scientists are part of a new £1 million bid to protect one of the UK’s best loved trees from invading killers.
The oak, which can live for hundreds of years, is facing an increasing barrage of threats from recently identified pests and infections, many of whom are still poorly understood.
There is a fear that the species is at risk of being wiped out if action is not taken immediately.
Scientists aim to tackle the problem with a major research project geared towards halting the spread of new infestations, including acute oak decline (AOD).
It is being led by the University of Reading, with collaboration from the James Hutton Institute in Dundee and Aberdeen, and will harness world-leading expertise in microbiology, climate science and forestry to find solutions to the growing problem of AOD and other tree health issues.
It will look at a range of options to save the oak, including identifying future disease hotspots and planning how to respond.
Plant and soil ecologist Dr Ruth Mitchell and her team at Scotland’s James Hutton Institute will be looking at the ecological implications of a decline in oak trees, which provide a habitat for a wide range of other wildlife.
She said to the Scotsman: “In fact oak is thought to host the greatest number of species – insects, mosses, lichens, fungi than any other tree species in the UK.
“For species that only use oak, a decline in oak populations could potentially have a big impact on the abundance of these species.
The team has done similar work on the ecological impact of ash dieback. It is thought a couple of bacteria species are responsible for causing AOD. Affected trees have vertical, weeping fissures that seep black fluid down the trunk.
The disease has not yet been seen in Scotland. It is most common in the Midlands and south-east England, but has spread northwards and into Wales in recent years.
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Image courtesy of The Scotsman