Disease threatens UK's ash trees

 

A A A

The UK could be facing a repeat of the impact of Dutch elm disease among its native ash trees without immediate action to stop a destructive fungus spreading from Europe, conservationists have warned.

The Woodland Trust is calling for a mandatory ban on the import of ash trees from outside the UK to stop Chalara dieback of ash becoming established here.

Without a compulsory ban on imports, ash dieback could become the new Dutch elm disease, causing widespread destruction of one of the country's most common native broadleaf trees, the trust said.

The Chalara fraxinea fungus, which causes leaf loss and crown dieback and can lead to tree death, has wiped out 90% of ash trees in Denmark in seven years and is becoming widespread throughout central Europe, the Woodland Trust said.

Ash trees make up an estimated 30% of the UK wooded landscape, across woodlands, parks and hedgerows, are good for biodiversity and are traditionally used for making furniture and tools and creating quality firewood and barbecue charcoal.

Young trees with the fungus have been found this year in six nurseries and four planting sites in England and Scotland.

The Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) has called for a voluntary moratorium on importing ash trees, but warned that given the widespread trade in plants across Europe it was almost inconceivable that the disease was not already established in the UK.

The HTA said it had raised the issue back in 2009, requesting imports be prevented, but was told quarantine action could not be taken because the disease was already present and widespread in the UK.

The voluntary ban has been welcomed by the Forestry Commission, which earlier this month launched a consultation on a risk assessment of the disease which looked at how it could be eradicated and measures to prevent further outbreaks.

But Norman Starks, UK operations director at the Woodland Trust, said: "This is not the time for weak ineffective voluntary embargoes; we are calling on governments across the UK to put in place an immediate and compulsory ban on imported ash before it's too late."

The longer the UK waits to bring in a compulsory ban, the closer the country comes to seeing a landscape without ash trees, he warned.

"As an island we have a great opportunity to stop the spread to the UK by closing our borders to this disease. If the disease takes hold the cost and safety implications regarding the removal of infected ash trees would be huge.

"Many of our tree diseases have originated from imported species and in some cases, for example Phytophthora ramorum which is wiping out larch trees across the UK, it's a battle that is already in full swing.

"We are in a position to stop this war in its tracks before it has the chance to take a hold. It is also an opportunity for the UK industry to capitalise on this and grow disease-free UK ash trees for the UK market."

The Forestry Commission said it was consulting on what measures to put in place to protect the trees, with proposed options including legislation which would ensure ash trees were only imported from areas free of the fungus.

Nick Mainprize, deputy plant health manager at the Forestry Commission, said of the disease: "We are very concerned because we are well aware of what's happened in northern Europe, where it has travelled very quickly in under 10 years."

He said Denmark had lost 90% of its trees, and warned: "We anticipate something similar could happen in this country."

While the consultation is taking place, the Forestry Commission is surveying for the disease, which has not been found in the natural or wider environment outside nursery or recent planting sites.

Infected plants and those on the same consignments as them are being destroyed.

PA

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Canteen Assistants Required

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's Frozen...

Recruitment Genius: Facilities & Operational Administrator

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting position has risen ...

Ashdown Group: Sales Support - Buckinghamshire - £25,000

£20000 - £25000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Internal Sales Executive ...

Recruitment Genius: Field Smart Meter Engineer - Gas and Electric - Dual Fuel

£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises in the installa...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum