A new partnership to protect oak trees from disease

The Quarry Oak, a 1,000-year-old sessile oak tree, at Croft Castle, Herefordshire

A major new campaign aims to protect the UK’s oak trees from pests and diseases. The Action Oak Partnership, officially launched at the 2018 Chelsea Flower Show, is made up of charities, environmental organisations and landowners, all seeking to raise £15 million for research and monitoring to help safeguard the 121 million oaks in UK woodlands.

What's harming our oak trees?

Environmental pressures such as climate change, pollution and drought can make our oak trees more vulnerable to pests and diseases.

Oak processionary moth, acute oak decline, bacterial diseases like Xylella, root-attacking honey fungus and powdery mildews are all threatening the future of majestic oak trees. We need to know more about these threats so we can help protect the nation's woodlands.

Calke Abbey in Derbyshire has two magnificent gnarly 1,000-year-old oaks, and another at 800 years old. We also care for the tallest English oak tree in the UK at Stourhead, standing a mighty 40.4 metres high

It's not only the show-stopping oaks that matter though. These ancient giants provide a vital life support for wildlife. An oak tree supports some 284 types of insects and 324 different lichens, and provides food and habitat for birds and mammals.

How will the campaign help?

The campaign contributes to the Government’s 25-year Environment Plan by helping to strengthen biosecurity and build resilience to protect oaks. It also builds on the £37 million the Government is already investing in tree and plant health research.

Members of the Action Oak Partnership are pooling knowledge and resources across the group to:

  • Work with owners and managers of oak trees and woodlands to help to protect the trees from a range of threats
  • Fund research to improve our understanding of the threats to our oak trees and to inform best management practices
  • Use established professional and citizen science networks to record changes in the distribution, age and health of our oak trees to identify priority areas for action
  • Encourage organisations to join the Action Oak Partnership and people to support Action Oak.

Who's involved in the campaign?

The Action Oak Partnership includes The Woodland Trust, Woodland Heritage, National Trust, The Duchy of Cornwall, Forest Research, Royal Botanical Gardens Kew, the Forestry Commission and the Northern Ireland Forest Service, and is supported by Defra, Scottish, Wales and Northern Ireland governments.