Tens of thousands of trees are currently being planted in Afan Forest to replace the larch that have been felled over the last four years.
The larch are being replaced by a range of different species that will provide trees for timber production in the future, as well as creating more native habitats for wildlife.
Around 650 hectares (1600 acres) of larch have been felled in Afan Forest to tackle Phytophthora ramorum, a fungal disease which kills the tree.
Under long term plans for the forest, a wider range of tree species will be planted to build a forest more resilient to the impacts of climate change and the possibility of new diseases.
Along with other areas left unplanted, this will increase biodiversity, improve water quality, reduce flooding and help to tackle climate change.
Andy Schofield, Operational Resources Manager for Natural Resources Wales, said:
“Afan Forest is a fantastic place providing opportunities for local people and visitors to enjoy, as well as supplying the timber industry with large quantities of harvested wood. We have world class mountain bike trails attracting more than 100,000 people here every year.
“Like so many of the south Wales forests, this disease has had a significant impact on the forest resulting in the felling of 1000s of infected trees.
“However, we are now implementing ambitious long-term plans for the recovery of the Forest Park which we believe has huge potential to improve the economic and social well-being of the area.”
The long term plan for Afan, which is almost 4000 hectares (almost 10,000 acres) of forest, has split the forest into zones that will have different aims, including:
- Approx. 2000 hectares of conifer and broadleaves for timber production in the future
- Approx. 1000 hectares of native broadleaves like oak, aspen, birch and lime
- Approx. 400 hectares of open habitats increasing diversity for heathland and wetland species
- Approx. 300 hectares of deep peat that will be restored – these help store carbon and regulate water flows into local streams and rivers
The work is part of the wider planting programme by Natural Resources Wales as part of their ongoing management of their forests where 3.2 million trees will be planted over a six month period.
Andy continued saying:
“This is part of our plan for the next 40 years for Afan forest which is a vital resource for the area. This investment into its future will mean it can do more for local people, the local economy and wildlife.”
Similar long term plans have been developed for Cwmcarn Forest where felling work to tackle the disease, which has infected around 150,000 larch trees, will be starting shortly.
The forest and visitor centre at Cwmcarn will remain open, with occasional diversions to walking and mountain biking trails, during the felling operation. No decision has been made on the future of the Forest Drive which will be closed for the time being as the road will be unusable.
The disease, Phytophthora ramorum, has infected approximately 6.7 million larch trees in Wales and kills the tree once it is infected.
To manage the spread, Natural Resources Wales has so far felled nearly 3 million trees. The felling provides the organisation with an opportunity to recover some of the economic value of the timber which is subsequently reinvested into the Welsh Government’s Woodland Estate.