Plantlife is concerned by the discovery of a serious fungal infection in juniper in County Durham.

14th Feb 2012

Phytophthora austrocedrus kills off the green leaves of infected trees causing death. Juniper is a priority species for conservation in England, Scotland and Wales and the population at Upper Teesdale is regarded as one of the best in England.

Plantlife welcomes the news that Natural England, the Forestry Commission and FERA are working together with the landowners to contain and minimise the damage to this nationally important population.

County Durham has already suffered a 43% loss in juniper in the period 1987-1999 and it is vital that all is done to curtail the spread of the disease. We hope that this will include warning signs to the public so that they can take action to avoid spreading the disease to other populations of this threatened species.

Plantlife has revised biosecurity advice to field staff, volunteers and contractors in line with this development and would encourage other land management organisations to do the same.

In Scotland, the UK’s stronghold for juniper, Plantlife Flora Guardians act as an early warning system at key juniper sites, using a tested methodology, suitable for volunteers, to assess juniper population health. In addition, Plantlife runs management and restoration projects throughout Britain, with the aim of restoring populations to full reproductive capacity.

While Phytophthora species are a part of wild ecosystems, the potential impact on key plant species and habitats in wild is of great concern. Just as we would like to see effective action in place to prevent the spread of Phytophthora ramorum into wild blaeberry in Scotland, we would also like to see effective, preventative action in place to prevent the spread of Phytophthora austrocedrus into other juniper populations across the UK.

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