RESTRICTIONS will be placed on the exporting of spruce logs with bark to the island of Ireland from parts of the west of Scotland. 

Forestry officials are taking the "preventative action" after it emerged the great spruce bark beetle was moving closer to an already established Pest Free Area (PFA).

While Dendroctonus micans is yet to be confirmed in the PFA, officials say it is "no longer possible to guarantee freedom from this beetle in all areas".

As part of a raft of new measures, a 35 km (22 mile) buffer zone will be put in place around all findings of D. micans bark beetle. A first restricted area has been set up, stretching into the PFA around Dunbartonshire and Argyll; this includes the port of Sandbank, now subject to the controls. 

The new restrictions in full are:

  • Spruce timber moving under phytosanitary certificate will only be allowed to travel through the 35 km buffer zone between October 1 and March 31, which is outside of the flying season for the D. micans bark beetle.
  • During this period, the timber should not be stored in the buffer zone but can be loaded at ports.  
  • Phytosanitary certificates confirming that conifer timber is free from D. micans will not be issued within 35 km of a beetle finding.

James Nott, head of tree health at Scottish Forestry, said: “Both the West of Scotland and island of Ireland have pest free status for D. micans and a number of other bark beetles.  

“It is important that we are both able to maintain this status which has been in place for many years as it allows trade to continue.

Forestry Journal: Documents show the new exclusion zone Documents show the new exclusion zone (Image: Scottish Forestry)

“In Scotland, the D. micans bark beetle is getting gradually closer to the PFA boundary. Although no beetles have been found within the PFA it is no longer possible to guarantee freedom from this beetle in all areas.

“As a precautionary measure, to maintain the integrity of the rest of the west of Scotland PFA, it is necessary to introduce measures to mitigate the risk.

“This action will enable trade from the rest of the PFA to continue. However, if the beetles continue to spread, the longer-term prospect is for the area of the west of Scotland PFA to reduce and ultimately close.”

Scottish Forestry has published an Action Plan, including a map showing the area of the PFA immediately affected by these new restrictions due to current confirmed findings of D. micans within 35 km. 

Forestry Journal: The port of Sandbank has now been placed under restrictions The port of Sandbank has now been placed under restrictions (Image: Richard Webb)

No further phytosanitary certificates will be issued for spruce roundwood from within this area of the PFA.

As the port of Sandbank is within this area, export of spruce roundwood from unaffected parts of the PFA to the island of Ireland through Sandbank will only be allowed between October 1 and March 31. 

The move has been welcomed by officials in Ireland. Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, senator Pippa Hackett, said: "My Department has had detailed discussions on these new measures with its Scottish counterparts, with the overall aim of ensuring that the integrity of the Pest Free Area is maintained and that Irish forests are protected.

"The presence of Dendroctonous micans in Scotland is a real concern."