Tuesday, 12 July 2011
Climate change in my backyard
A couple of years ago I noticed that my rosemary bush had become home to some strange, bronze-coloured beetles. I consulted the Royal Horticultural Society website and discovered that the Rosemary Beetle had reached Tyneside and was now residing in my backyard. The thrill of putting the most northerly dot on their distribution map was somewhat muted when I noted the damage being done to one of my favourite herbs. Reading the latest Relu policy and practice note I realise that this could be just the beginning, as new pests and diseases take advantage of climate change. The problem is that we can't easily predict which of these are going to become problematic. How can policymakers begin to plan? One dimension that is sometimes overlooked is that of human beings. Presumably my beetles didn't fly in from the continent and the nearest infestation on the map was much further south. So it seems likely that they arrived via the horticultural trade, or were brought north by an individual gardener. The last couple of Tyneside winters have seen them off - for the moment. But none of us, whether gardeners with tiny backyards, commercial growers or policymakers can afford to be complacent.