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To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of evidence that trees damaged by grey squirrels are particularly prone to infection by phytopthora ramorum and that grey squirrels are carrying disease spores from tree to tree; and what steps her Department is taking in response to that evidence.
The Forestry Commission, which has statutory responsibility for the protection of forest trees and timber, carries out aerial surveys to identify tree dieback indicating possible Phytophthora infection. Follow up work has determined that over 300 of the sites surveyed had squirrel damage but found no evidence to suggest that there is a link between this damage and Phytophthora infection. On only 3.5% of sites surveyed are there suggestions of the co-occurrence of squirrel damage and Phytophthora infection, which does not demonstrate cause and effect.