U.K. to tighten tree import regulations

Ash dieback symptoms. Courtesy of WTPL/Mike Ryder.

In an effort to curb the introduction of pests and diseases, tree and plant imports to the United Kingdom soon will be subject to tighter tracking.

The new rules will help inspectors track European Union (EU)- imported oak, sweet chestnut, ash and plant trees. This will help inspectors “target their inspections” and to follow the imports if they suspect a disease is present, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

Importers from EU countries must now disclose the origin and species of the imported tree to U.K. inspectors, which allows them to better judge which tests – if any – are needed.

“We need to ensure we have a healthy, thriving stock of our native trees and these controls will significantly help us to prevent pests and diseases from getting established in the first place.  We have learned from ash dieback how important it is to be able to act quickly to identify where infected trees may be,” said Environment Secretary Owen Paterson, in a statement. “I want to make sure we can quickly trace and destroy diseased trees regardless of where they come from as part of our effort to better protect our forests and woodlands.”

Earlier this year, the fungus that causes the tree disease ash dieback was found in Suffolk and Ashwellthrope. The disease causes crown death, leaf loss and eventually the death of the tree.

The disease already has decimated ash trees in other parts of Europe, including Denmark where roughly 90 percent of ash trees have been affected.

The rules were announced today and go into effect tomorrow.

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