This Saturday 21 March is International day of forests, a day dedicated to celebrating and raising awareness about the importance of all types of forests.
This year’s theme celebrates biodiversity. To mark the occasion Greg Jones, one of our Senior Officers in our Forest Operation teams tell us how our teams are working with Forest Managers and contractors across the Welsh Government Forest Estate, to deliver more than just timber to roadside.
“At Natural Resources Wales (NRW) we manage 124,000ha of forests and woodland across Wales on behalf of The Welsh Government - that’s 6% of the country’s total land area - and around 40% of the Welsh forest resource, making us the largest land manager in Wales.
Back in January, our Forest Operations team began working with the Forest Works Manager at Silva and contractors M V Davies, to remove trees on a Planted Ancient Woodland Site (PAWS) in the Radnor Forest area that were infected with Phytophthora ramorum – more commonly known as larch disease.
Larch disease has infected approximately 6.7 million larch trees across the whole of Wales and has had a dramatic impact on our forestry. Trees that are infected need to be felled under the Statutory Plant Health Notice from Welsh Government as part of a nationwide strategy to stop the disease spreading further.
The Larch trees in Radnor were standing at around nearly 30 metres tall and weighed in at an average of 2 tonnes a tree, (that’s the equivalent to nearly 1.5 tonnes in weight!) -so required a sizeable machine to allow us to fell the timber safely. In Winter this type of work - felling larch with a limited amount of brash- requires major skill to make sure we are minimising the impact caused to soils and residual broadleaves, enhancing future PAWS management and European Protected Species habitat for dormice.
The works form part of our Timber Marketing Plan and subsequent Forest Operations programme with extensive planning undertaken to ensure that Dormice habitat and other conservation and heritage assets are protected across the woodland unit. During the operation, our contractors were able to remove the Sitka spruce regeneration and one of the many historic rides crossing the forest, dating from the Norman period, was bridged using a log raft at a single crossing point and removed afterwards, protecting this important piece of forest heritage.
The next step for this woodland will be to plant provenance sessile oak trees which are more resilient and will help to secure the site for the future. Groups of oak will sit amongst existing native broadleaves, allowing a diverse structure and native woodland habitat to redevelop, accepting further natural broadleaved regeneration to ensure an extensive woodland cover.
Once trees are established and the woodland developing, we will be vigilant for damage from the grey squirrel which may be inclined to strip bark from the native oak in particular, adversely affecting the health and vigour of the trees."
You can find out more about International Day of Forests over on the United Nations Website.