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Tree felling gets underway at Belvoir forest

Staff in Forest Service and the NI Environment Agency are working together to secure the future of Belvoir forest as a special place for the people of Belfast.
Monday, 4 August 2014

The forest landscape at Belvoir will soon be changed significantly as many larch trees that were planted in the past have become affected by the fungus-like organism Phytophthora ramorum. Approximately 6,500 larch trees will be felled to reduce the risk of the disease spreading to other forest species. The disease is spread through the release of infective spores and affected trees are soon killed.

A spokesperson for the Forest Service said: "Action to fell approximately 6,500 larch trees is underway as this is the most effective way of reducing the risk of the disease spreading to other trees and gardens in the Belfast area. Consultation has been carried out with key stakeholders as part of the planning process in advance of the felling operation.’’

The forest contains many ancient and veteran trees which date back over hundreds of years and include some of the oldest trees in Ireland.

A spokesperson for NIEA said: ‘‘These trees contain a wealth of biodiversity interest providing a historical and cultural link to our past. Some of these trees were present when Belfast was little more than a village. Many of these veteran trees are growing within the larch plantations that need to be felled. In many ways, this felling should ultimately benefit the veteran trees and we have worked closely with Forest Service to ensure that the felling of disease affected trees is carried out as sympathetically as possible to minimise the potential threat to the veterans.’’

The Forest Service also appealed to the public to help in the control of the disease. A spokesperson said: ‘’Although felling work is planned to start immediately, Belvoir forest remains open to visitors. However, visitors to the forest should follow the guidance detailed on signs at the affected sites.’

‘’It is especially important to avoid any action which could result in the movement of infected soil or plant parts to uninfected areas. Visitors are also urged to ensure their bicycles and footwear are free of any soil before visiting other areas. The disease presents no risk to humans or animals, although the temporary loss of habitat for wild animals is inevitable."

This guidance was also reinforced at a public meeting held in Belvoir forest on 22 July where local users of the forest had an opportunity to discuss the impacts of felling operations on issues such as public access.

Further details on the disease can be found on the NIDirect website.

Notes to editors:

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