Top Tips on Habitat and Land Management issues including pathogens

  • SOD or Sudden Oak Death, caused by the fungus Phytophthora ramorum, is now thought to have reached woods in England. It is not fatal to all trees and, in USA, Bay Laurel seems to be the main source of inoculum. Infected trees show browning of leaves and die back of whole branches, plus damage to the bark. However, positive confirmed identification requires the use of laboratory tests by e.g. ELISA or PCR. The spores of P. ramorum are present on the surface of the lesions; and can be spread through: the air blowing across country; or by rainwater washing the spores down to the ground and thus through the leaf litter and soil to the tree roots and on into drains and streams etc. from where the spores can easily reach and infect new hosts via their roots. To avoid spreading the pathogen: brush leaves and soil from shoes and all equipment used before leaving the site. Do not wash off into soil or water, either on site or elsewhere, as this will only spread the spores to a fresh area!

  • Infected trees should be felled and removed a.s.a.p - the timber may be used for processing if of a suitable size, or burnt preferably for heating. However, all leafy twigs, small branches and timber with obvious lesions, should be burnt on site, together with the leaf mould covering the soil surface. The spores survive best when night temperatures do not drop below 16°C and are killed by temperatures above 49°C. So the burning of leaf litter is likely to help prevent spread to healthy trees. Since not all trees will be killed by the infection, the healthy trees should be left in place to maintain habitat for as long as possible. The following link gives good information for control in the Wildland Management section.

  • Now is the time of year when it is essential to clean out ALL bird nesting boxes. This is necessary to avoid the spread of mites, ticks and disease from last year's brood to the new 2012 brood. Old nests are rarely reused in the wild; and where they are, the adults always spring clean by chucking the old lining over the edge and putting in a new one. With a hefty wooden bird box this cleaning manueuvre is impossible. Replace cleaned boxes out of the reach of four-footed predators; and preferably at a minimum of 12 feet high.