EXOTIC pine tree species planted next to native Scots pine forests should be removed to limit the risk of disease to native trees, a study has found.

Scientists from Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and the University of Edinburgh have completed an in-depth study which they say shows increased numbers of Corsican Pine from Europe and Lodgepole Pine from North America are heightening the risk of disease by introducing new types of fungi.

Plant researcher Dr Peter Hoebe, from SRUC, and honorary fellow Richard Ennos, of Edinburgh University, studied genes in fungi attacking pine needles from a number of locations, including forests around Aviemore.

They looked at spread of the fungus Dothistroma septosporum, which is responsible for and outbreak of Dothistroma needle blight (DNB) in native Caledonian Scots pine populations and other species.

Hoebe said: “This extensive study involved collecting hundreds of needles from forests around Scotland. In many cases, needle blight itself doesn’t necessarily kill the trees, but the loss of needles affects the growth of mainly young pines. While introducing exotic species to Scotland can sound very appealing, there are distinct risks involved.”