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?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Danish director Lars von Trier
tvEnglish-language series with 'huge' international cast set for 2016
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Secondary supply teachers required in Wisbech

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Secondary teachers ne...

PPA Cover Teachers Required in Doncaster

Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Primary PPA Teachers required for wo...

Maths teachers needed for supply work in Ipswich

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Maths teachers requir...

Executive Assistant/Events Coordinator - Old Street, London

£35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Executive Assistant/Event...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering