We are familiar, for example, with the travels and researches of the likes of David Douglas who brought seeds from unusual species in north America to Europe where, on replanting, they grew to form the fir trees that now carry his name here and in France (where its proponents have lobbied to trademark the locally grown material as le Douglas). Similarly, the Sitka spruce introduced from the Pacific west coast of Canada to the UK after WW1 as a relatively disease-resistant, fast growing, straight softwood to replace the massive volumes of timber that had been felled to provide material for trench linings and pit props during WW1 is now our predominant production species in the UK. We have copious volumes of larch too, with the European and Japanese versions dominating in different parts of the UK.
But just as we have imported the seeds of many different species over the past few hundred years, so too have we immigrated a range of diseases affecting not only timber quality but also the very existence of a several important species. Dutch elm disease virtually eradicated one of the finest trees in the UK landscape, whilst today ash, oak, larch and Scots pine are all under threat from rampantly spreading pathogens. The catastrophic impact of this on our forest sector has opened up whole new areas of research, not only into ways of combating the respective viruses involved, but also into identifying new uses for the felled timber that maintain some, if not all, of the raw material’s value, rather than simply seeing it burned as a means of destroying the infections.