More needs to be done to protect the UK's trees and plants from invasive pests and diseases, a government backed report has said.
The report from the Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Expert Taskforce, calls for tighter biosecurity at UK borders as well as the appointment of a chief plant health officer similar in responsibility to the government's chief vet.
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said: "We are already working on implementing a plant health risk register and are putting plans in place to predict and control the spread of tree diseases.
"Everyone’s got a role to play in this. I’m going to hold a summit with all the main people, groups and businesses who have an interest in our trees. We’re going to work together to make sure we protect our woodlands."
The report comes after diseases such as ash dieback and pests such as caterpillars of the oak processionary moth cause damage and concern - with a helicopter even taking to the skies to spray the caterpillars.
The taskforce report recommends are that the government should:
- Develop a UK Plant Health Risk Register;
- Appoint a chief plant health officer to look after the Plant Health Risk Register;
- Develop and implement procedures to predict, monitor, and control the spread of pests and diseases;
- Review, simplify, and strengthen governance and legislation;
- Improve the use of intelligence from EU/other regions and work to improve the EU regulations concerned with tree health and plant biosecurity;
- Strengthen biosecurity to reduce risks at the border and within the UK;
- Develop a modern, user-friendly system to provide quick and intelligent access to data about tree health and plant biosecurity;
- Address key skills shortages.