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An unstoppable plague devastates thousands of pine trees

Some experts are calling the plague that is currently devastating the pine tree population in the Sierra de Orihuela as ‘unstoppable’, and with over 5,000 trees destroyed by the weevil in recent months the Valencian treasury has recently announced an allocation of 200,000 euros for its treatment.

The pest was first detected in the Sierra de Orihuela in May and in just a few short months it has now spread into at least three adjoining municipalities with no sign whatsoever of any control.

The insect attacking the pines is known as "Tomicus destruens» and is currently progressing unchecked throughout the Vega Baja. It is similar in appearance to indigenous bark beetles, and the danger is that newly established populations often go undetected for long periods. They are capable of killing relatively vigorous trees during outbreaks.

In Redován, Council officials have concluded in a report that the central part of the pine forest has lost 40% of its pine trees while in the area neighbouring San Carlos the mortality rate is upward of 80% mortality of pinos carrascos (Aleppo pines). As in the neighboring municipality of Orihuela this pine forest was completely reforested in the early fifties.

Orihuela Councillor, Manuel Gallud, said that his municipal department has found great reluctance by the Valencian government to accept that there is a problem in the region and provide necessary assistance to undertake urgent action. “They seem to be blaming the death of the pines on the lack of rains, which is absolute nonsense, so municipalities are now being forced to pay for expensive treatments for the elimination of the pine weevil themselves”.

“The Regional allocation of 200,000 euros will go nowhere near meeting the cost of the necessary treatment and is insufficient for municipalities to hire crews to cut down the dead pine trees that pose a hazard to people and property, so municipalities are now being forced to pay for expensive treatments themselves”.

“The other aspect that is seriously affecting the problem is the fact that the disease has now spread over a number of different municipalities so co-ordinating any plan of action will be even more difficult”.

But a study carried out recently establishes a series of actions which it is hoped will reduce the impact of pests and eliminate all sources before the next period of greatest activity, from April to October next year, one aspect of which requires removing all infected wood from the forest.

So as council workmen begin the difficult task of cutting down and disposing of the infected pines in an effort to control the current infestation and thereby save at least part of the pine tree population, in order to prevent another wave of dry trees and a similar, if not worse problem next summer, local councils must also unite in order to put together an emergency plan to contain it.

As a result of the problems encountered in Orihuela and surrounds, reviews are also being carried out by experts in the pine forests of Pilar de la Horadada and Callosa de Segura, and although there appear to be few affected trees, the owners of adjoining private land have also been told to be attentive to the dreaded insect.

Meanwhile, the Valencia Regional Ministry of Infrastructure, Planning and Environment issued an order on Monday making it compulsory to treat trees and forests affected by the plague, “regardless of the ownership of the land” and, according to the Plant Health Act, it is mandatory for the owners of farms or other vegetated surfaces to “enforce the phytosanitary measures”.

Filed under: http://www.theleader.info/article/45483/

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