RSST Tree Losses our newsletter
07 July 2022
Part of the work of the RSST is informing the public, many of whom only know the grey squirrel, about the damage it causes in gardens and the countryside, and tree damage in particular. We initiated an article in The Times on 4 July highlighting this problem. Below is an extract of our press release sent to The Times that was the basis of the article.
ARE UK’s NET ZERO PLANS LIKELY TO BE DERAILED BY GREY SQUIRRELS?
Government targets to plant millions of trees to help the UK reach a net zero carbon emission position by 2050 could be derailed by grey squirrels.
The national charity charged with protecting our native red squirrels bases these concerns on a recent report by the Royal Forestry Society “The Cost Of Grey Squirrel Damage To Woodland in England and Wales”. This was produced in partnership with the Forestry Commission, The National Forest, Natural Resources Wales and the Woodland Trust – all are signatories to the UK Squirrel Accord partnership.
Researchers estimate that 15% of broadleaf trees and 5% of conifers are damaged or killed by grey squirrels. The Red Squirrel Survival Trust believes that tree planting numbers should be boosted and grey squirrel numbers reduced to ensure the nation reaches carbon neutrality by 2050 and avoid a serious delay in achieving this target.
Alongside the Red Squirrel Survival Trust, Government is actively involved in the UK Squirrel Accord partnership, which seeks to reduce the negative impacts of grey squirrels to protect our nation’s trees for future generations.
“It isn’t simply a case of trees being killed by grey squirrels stripping bark, others are severely damaged and many die as a result of secondary infection and disease,” says Vanessa Fawcett of the Red Squirrel Survival Trust (RSST).
“Almost every report on tree damage caused by the non-native grey squirrels agree with the levels of damage and death. Many landowners are currently avoiding planting traditional broad leaf trees such as sycamore, beech, birch and oak and replacing them with less susceptible species such as cherry, lime and alder.
“If grey squirrel numbers continue unchecked,” she continues “ it is likely that the tree landscape of the UK will be fundamentally changed for future generations. The cost of squirrel damage in terms of lost timber ie estimated at between £6 and £10million a year and does not take into account the cost of carbon sequestration or replacing dead and damaged trees, which increases the cost to at least £37 million a year.”
Red squirrels are native to the UK but diminishing in numbers due to the impact of grey squirrels, some of which carry Squirrel Pox which is harmless to them but deadly to reds.