Dutch elm disease also threat to Finnish elms

8.7.2016 09:00

A risk assessment carried out by the Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira indicates that the fungal Dutch elm disease could also spread to Finland. The disease is already present in all the other EU countries and has caused serious damage. The disease occurred in Finland in the 1960s in a few trees, but was successfully eradicated.

Evira, the City of Helsinki and the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) conducted an assessment of the likelihood and possible pathways through which the disease could spread to Finland and how much damage it could cause here. The fungus is spread by certain bark beetles occurring in Finland’s immediate vicinity on the northern coast of Estonia, in the Stockholm area, and in Vyborg.

Dutch elm disease and the bark beetles that spread it are present in all the countries neighbouring Finland. The beetles have not yet spread the disease itself to Vyborg, but it is already present in St Petersburg. Research indicates that in terms of climatic conditions, the bark beetles are likely to be capable of colonising at least the southernmost parts of Finland.

“The elm bark beetles that spread the fungus have already spread to Vyborg, 30 kilometres from the Finnish border. The most likely pathway of the disease into Finland would be naturally with the bark beetles, for example with the winds or transport,” says Salla Hannunen, Senior Researcher, PhD at Evira’s Risk Assessment Research Unit.

Elm imports to Finland as timber or young plants are negligible, so that spreading with trade goods is unlikely.

Damage would be evident in city parks
“Dutch elm disease could damage our critically endangered natural elm groves. City parks could suffer serious damage clearly visible to residents, particularly in the towns and cities of southern Finland that have planted the most elm trees,” says Hannunen.

Elms have been planted in parks in Helsinki, Espoo and Turku, among other places. Natural elm woodlands are found in Finland in Aland, the south-western coast, Lohja and Häme.

The diseased elms wilt, dry up and may die even in a single summer. In order to prevent the disease from spreading, the diseased elms and those nearby must be destroyed, complete with roots. Evira should be notified of dying elm trees. 

According to the risk assessment, the disease could be eradicated in many situations in Finland, as the number of elms is low and the elm stands are far apart. In the event of the disease being found in Finland, the authorities would first assess whether or not eradication of the disease is possible, and a decision will be made accordingly.


Please report dying elms on the Evira website www.evira.fi/tuhoojailmoitus or by email kasvinterveys@evira.fi


Further information:
Salla Hannunen, Senior Researcher, PhD, Risk Assessment Research Unit , tel. +358 (0)40 350 9075


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