Scientists from Exeter University say “many hundreds” more pests and pathogens could arrive in Britain over the coming years and are asking people to act as the countryside’s “eyes and ears”.
Their report in the Nature Climate Change journal says pests such as fungi, beetles and moths are moving into new territories quicker than other wildlife.
In Croydon, a 2km zone has been established to monitor and control the spread of the oak processionary moth, whose caterpillars can strip oak trees bare and cause rashes, eye problems, sore throats and breathing difficulties in people.
Infected areas, which include parts of London and Berkshire, are being sprayed with a bacteriological agent to destroy the moths’ nests and defoliating caterpillars.
Forester Simon Levey said people should look out for something resembling “a grey wart” – ranging from the size of a golf ball to a couple of feet across – on the side of trees.
Meanwhile, ash dieback – a chronic fungal disease – has spread to wild trees across England, Scotland and Wales since arriving in the UK last year.
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