Sunday, 4 November 2012


Recent news reports have focused on a devastating tree disease, called Ash dieback, being found for the first time in the UK. Having already devastated woodlands in Europe, with scientists estimating upto 90% of ash trees affected in Denmark alone, this is a serious issue.

Ash dieback (Chalara fraxinea) is a fungal disease first described in 2006, causes lesions on the branches of the tree and leads to the dieback of the branches and the death of the crown in particular. It is deadly to young ash trees and older trees will succumb eventually, though may survive several years with the disease. 

Having first arrived in saplings imported form the continent the disease was first spotted in February 2012, with bans on imports taking a further 7 months to be actioned. Further more the Forestry Commissions trade unions warned the government only last year that the 25% cut in its budget would reduce the commissions effectiveness to tackle tree disease. 

Fera have done a video of what to look out for and the life cycle of this disease.

Ministers have held a COBRA meeting which is the governments crisis management committee and they have been told to expect most of the UK's 90 million Ash trees to be infected within 10 years, with the disease travelling an average of 20 miles a year.

Obviously this will dramatically change the look of our countryside with many experts expecting it to be reminiscent of Dutch Elm disease of the 60's and 70's. Not only will this disease kill the tree it will also affect the organisms which live on or around the tree and rely on it for their survival. Tracking the spread of the pathogen has been aided by the development of an app available for iOS and Android devices here!.

The environment secretary has asked people to wash their clothes, dogs & shoes etc to prevent the spread of the disease as the destroying of trees is likely to be unaffective as the pathogen is found in leaf litter.

We will have to see where this disease goes but with fears now of another pathogen which affects Scots pine, can we expect the government to start looking at and tackling the reasons why diseases are becoming more prevalent and widespread? I doubt it!

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