National Tree Week - help protect our woodland

It would be hard to imagine Britain without its woodland, pine forests and, of course, the iconic oak tree. Yet many of the UK's native species are under threat from pests and diseases that not only affect young saplings, but also some of the nation's ancient trees.

National Tree Week

Pic: Getty

According to the Woodland Trust, almost 84,000 of the 115,000 ancient, veteran or notable trees registered on the Trust's Ancient Tree Hunt website could be at risk. As well as changing our landscape, the loss of woodland can have a significant effect on some of Britain's wildlife who reside in the forest. Bugs, bats, birds and fungi are among the many species that would lose important habitat and food sources.

As Austin Brady, head of conservation at the Trust told the Guardian: "Losing some trees to diseases and pests is all part of life and death in the forest, but to lose our precious ancient trees would be terrible.

"These huge stalwarts have taken centuries to grow and their loss would just be devastating, not only for the landscape, but for the environment."

Most recently it is the ash - the UK's third most abundant species of broadleaf tree - that has made headlines. A disease caused by the Chalara fraxinea fungus, which causes ash dieback, has been identified in woodlands in East Anglia and already caused significant damage in some areas of the UK.

Diamond-shaped lesions on the trunk or at the base of dead side shoots, wilting or blackened leaves, and balding at the crown of the tree are all signs of the disease, and the Woodland Trust is urging Brits to watch for the symptoms and report any sign in order to gain a clearer picture of the situation.

Other trees are also at risk of disease are the Scots pine, which faces the threat of needle blight, the horse chestnut, affected by bleeding canker where the dying bark oozes liquid, and the Phytophthora fungi, which attacks juniper, oak, beech and sweet chestnut. Meanwhile acute oak decline, which can infect both the UK's native species, has already wiped out trees in the Midlands and the South.

So if you value your local woodland and forests, why not get involved with the research and conservation needed to monitor and improve the nation's tree health as part of National Tree Week (23 November to 1 December)?

Run by the Tree Council, there are plenty of events already taking place, as well as the opportunity to plan your own, to help educate and inspire your local community. The Woodland Trust also has plenty of information about what to look for in terms of disease, how to help look after Britain's treescape, and even provides free 'tree packs' to enable communities, volunteer groups and schools to get planting for the future.

Will you be getting involved to help look after your local woodland? Leave your comments below...