The forestry services in Northern Ireland have commenced a large-scale tree felling operation in Belvoir Forest in order to hopefully halt the spread of a fungal threat through the larch population.
Collaboration between the Forest Service and the NI Environment Agency aims to prevent the fungus from infecting any more larches – particularly the oldest ‘veteran’ trees – but it comes at a cost.
Some 6,500 larch trees are to be felled in total, dramatically changing the landscape both in terms of the way it looks, and its function as a habitat for local wildlife.
The difficult decision was made in response to an outbreak of Phytophthora ramorum, a fungus-like organism that affects larch trees.
A spokesperson for the NIEA said: “These trees contain a wealth of biodiversity interest providing a historical and cultural link to our past.
“Some of these trees were present when Belfast was little more than a village. Many of these veteran trees are growing within the larch plantations that need to be felled.”
Members of the public are still allowed to visit while the emergency forestry work is being carried out; however, they are being asked to take extra care to avoid transferring soil from affected parts of the forest into surrounding areas.