Thursday 27 September 2012
The Woodland Trust is warning that Britain's ash trees, which make up about one third of the trees in our hedgerows, woods and forests, could be almost wiped out by a deadly fungus which has now reach the UK from Europe.
The disease 'ash dieback' has been detected in a small number of locations in the UK, which include a nursery in Buckinghamshire, but none in the wild yet. This disease has killed 90% of ash trees in Denmark over the last seven years and is widespread in much of the rest of mainland Europe.
The Woodland Trust believes that the only way to prevent the fungus taking hold in the UK is to ban the imports of ash saplings from Europe.
"The loss of ash on this scale would be an environmental disaster," says Norman Starks, the Woodland Trust's operations director. "The impact on woodland biodiversity would be huge. We can delay it by using the English Channel as a barrier and banning imports of live saplings."
Dr John Morgan, head of the Forestry Commission's Plant Health Service, agrees that the fungus poses a very serious threat, but says there is not enough evidence yet to suggest all ash trees will be lost should the fungus take hold:
"We still don't know for sure how it will respond to conditions in Britain, but I'd be surprised if we lost more than 90% of our ash. However, the only reliable control is banning imports."
Ash is one of the most common native broadleaf trees and is found throughout the Chilterns.