Scotland Tackles Bark Beetle: £771m Timber Industry at Stake

Ips typographus is causing widespread forest destruction across Europe and Northern America exacerbating a timber bottleneck in global supply chains.

Sun 12 May 24


Scotland is ramping up timber restrictions at ports, in forests, and manufacturing mills, and it is now deploying new technology to monitor forests in the wake of the growing Bark Beetle crisis. 

Wood Central understands that the beetle’s risk to trees and timber stock will elevate now that species emerge from hibernation – with stressed spruce trees, damaged by windblown or drought “most at risk.”

At stake is a £771 million industry, with Scottish timber used in 92% of housing, fencing, paper, and biofuel – employing more than 30,000 Scottish workers, including King Charles III Balmoral Estate.

It comes as Scottish Forestry is now working with Welsh and English authorities to “reduce the risks posed by the great spruce bark beetle, Dendroctonus micans.”

The new threat comes after adult beetles were intercepted for the first time in September 2023 near Grangemouth, Scotland’s largest container terminal. However, authorities have since confirmed that no further infiltration was found during follow-up surveys.

In the Harz region in the middle of Germany, dead spruce trees stand like white ghosts on the hilltops. They are victims of the bark beetle – a small insect that is causing major destruction across Europe. Footage courtesy of Euronews.

And whilst Scottish forests are not as suitable as Central European forests for the beetle, known as Ips typographus, which has sustained enormous losses to timber-producing spruce, authorities warn that the climate is similar to parts of Scandinavia where the beetle has now taken hold.

Already, breeding programmes have been established in South-East England, with the pests arriving in Southern England, like in Scotland, via cross-channel imported material. This led the UK government to introduce a GB-wide monitoring network with traps used at ports, wood processing facilities, and forests across the country.

According to Cameron Macintyre, Tree Health Planning and Contingency Manager for Scottish Forestry, “We’re surveying for Ips typographus and other damaging pests and diseases,” adding that authorities are now “asking everyone to be vigilant and report suspicious symptoms to TreeAlert (the monitoring system established by Scottish Forestry).”

Mr Macintrye said, “All you need to do is take photographs of the trees and the symptoms and record the date and location of your finding.”

New research published yesterday suggests that European forests are at high risk from climate change-induced global warming - adding to a bottleneck in timber supply. (Photo Credit: Panther Media GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo)
New research published suggests that European forests are at high risk from climate change-induced global warming, with the bark beetle adding to a bottleneck in timber supply. (Photo Credit: Panther Media GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo)

The new crackdown comes after the Republic of Ireland established a 35km buffer zone for all timber imported from Scotland in areas with beetle breeding zones. 

At the time, Ireland’s Minister of State for Agriculture, Senator Pippa Hackett, said the department had worked closely with the Scottish authorities to arrive at an outcome that would protect Irish forests.

“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.”


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