Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Heather Beetle: a review

I am pleased to announce the publication of this report (Heather Beetle: a review) from the School of Environmental Sciences, University of Liverpool, which I expect to be of widespread interest.

It remains my view that the threat to heather posed by this beetle is under-estimated.  The Trust commissioned this review to bring together the existing knowledge about this pest of heather.

We need to plug the gaps in our knowledge about the drivers of the heather beetle population and what are the causes of the large scale population blooms.  Next, we need to know how to manage heather to reduce the risk of a heather beetle outbreak in the first place, and then how to best manage the heather to regenerate it after a large scale attack.

There is no doubt that the beetle is present on virtually all heather moorland, but it is when the population blooms to cause a large scale outbreak that it starts to cause significant damage and economic loss that can be so devastating to all interests in heather moorland. We do not know what causes this.

I am grateful to the author Angus Rosenburgh, and to our President, Prof Rob Marrs, who supervised the work, for producing such a useful report.  It serves to provide a useful summary of our knowledge but it also highlights the gaps, which I will continue to campaign to fill.

Heather beetle is seen as a low grade threat to heather moorland in many quarters, but with the uncertainties surrounding the effects that climate change will have on moorland ecosystems, can we afford this complacency?  Looking over a moor that has suffered a large scale attack, such as Langholm Moor in 2009, the risk to heather, and all the species that depend on it, seems to be much greater.

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