Helicopter missions flown to spot lethal larch timber disease in East Lancashire trees (From Lancashire Telegraph)
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Helicopter missions flown to spot lethal larch timber disease in East Lancashire trees
AERIAL reconnaisance missions have been flown over East Lancashire — in a bid to spot a deadly disease spreading through larch trees.
The flights using a helicopter involved experts taking thousands of aerial images of local woodlands to spot tell-tale signs of infection caused by a fungus-like pathogen, Phytophthora ramorum (P. ramorum), which kills larch trees very quickly.
The lethal disease was first discovered in the UK in 2009 in South West England and has since spread to many parts of western Britain, including Lancashire, where nine sites have been identified, mostly around the Clitheroe and Burnley areas.
In February, work began to fell 12,000 larch trees near Churn Clough Reservoir, Sabden, to tackle the spread of the disease.
Flights have not so far found any significant signs of further infection, but analysis continues.
Ben Jones, Forestry Commission England’s Plant Health Operations Manager, said: “Containment and early felling is important because infected larch trees produce huge numbers of the spores that spread the disease.
“These can be spread some distance from tall trees by the wind and in mists, risking rapid spread of the infection to large numbers of other trees.
“The helicopter covers large areas of ground quickly, giving us a good view of the forest canopy.
“That means we can look for disease symptoms, as well as any other abnormalities.
“Using cameras with built-in GPS, areas of concern can be pin-pointed and ground teams sent in to carry out a detailed inspection.”
Larch trees comprise about 1.2 per cent of all woodland in Lancashire and the North West is deemed a high-risk zone for the infection because of its moist climate.