The UK government has announced a £7m ($12m) injection of cash to battle the arrival of a deadly disease affecting millions of trees.
Phytophtora lateralis has been recorded on a Lawson cypress tree in Devon and scientists have confirmed the disease has arrived and could be widespread. The Lawson cypress is common in Britain's parks and woodlands. Scientists have told the government that urgent action is needed and research needs to carried out to establish how far the disease has spread.
The action plan was announced by Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman, who said:
If we don't act now, we could end up with a similar situation to the 1970s when more than 30 million trees in the UK died [as a result of] Dutch elm disease. [The] action plan dedicates £7m to finding ways to combat exotic pests and diseases, as well as introducing stricter controls on plants and cuttings being brought across the UK's borders.
A report in the BBC Environment column says the disease infects several species of cypress trees, Phytophtora lateralis is also know to attack Pacific yews, a close relative of the UK's common yew. A tree becomes infected when it comes into contact with spores in the soil or water.
The funding is not new money but reallocated funds already issued to the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). The Woodland Trust has welcomed the news but expressed reservations that reallocated rather than new funding shows the government's priorities may be misplaced.