Those plants were sprayed with herbicide, together with a 10 metre buffer, but the leaf spot disease was already widespread and causing die-back on areas across the hill top. In 2011 and 2012, I noticed that the damage caused by the leaf spot, or Phytophthora was increasing gradually, but nothing prepared me for the devastation I saw today.
|Infected Bilberry, with newly dead stems showing up red|
|The grey patches are Bilberry that was affected last year and the orange patches are this year's infected areas|
|More infected areas|
On my way back down, every patch of Bilberry I saw was similarly affected and I've seen the leaf spot disease just about everywhere in Cynon and Merthyr. Whether it is the leaf spot or Phytophthora is affecting the Bilberry so severely, is slightly irrelevant. The point is, Bilberry in this area is in serious trouble and that will inevitably have a detrimental effect on Bilberry feeding or nectaring insects, as well as those species of bird that rely on their larvae for food.
All in all, the whole morning's walk was a sobering and depressing affair, with the Bilberry, the dying Larch and also dying Birch, the latter being a particular worry.