A section of the Moor House - Upper Teesdale National Nature Reserve in the North Pennines has had to be closed following an outbreak of the plant disease Phytophthora austrocedrae.
Although not harmful to humans or animals, the disease attacks rare, native juniper bushes infecting the plant through the root system and causing the foliage to decline and eventually die.
Scientists from the Forestry Commission, who identified the disease, believe it can be transmitted in ground water, infected plant material and contaminated soil.
Walkers visiting the affected area are asked to help prevent further spread by:
- Keeping to paths
- Keeping dogs on a lead
- Washing off any mud and dirt from footwear using the cleaning/disinfectant points provided
- Brushing any loose mud and dirt off clothing
- Thoroughly cleaning footwear at home before its next use
- Leaving wood and plant material where it is
The measures have been put in place by Natural England, which manages the site. Walkers are asked to obey notices placed around the site.
Natural England is working with the Forestry Commission and the Food & Environment Research Agency (Fera) to survey the extent of the infection and decide how best to contain it.
Dr John Morgan, Head of the Forestry Commission’s Plant Health Service, said:
“Juniper habitat is rare, and a number of people and organisations are working hard to protect and restore it. It is therefore especially disappointing to learn that this very damaging disease has affected such an important site in England.”
“We join our partners in Natural England and Fera in urging everyone who works at, or visits this site to co-operate with the measures we develop to prevent accidental spread of the disease. By taking these precautions we stand our best chance of preventing the disease spreading to other places.”
For more information or a map of the affected area contact Natural England on 01833 622374.