A Facebook game that allows puzzle fans to help tackle the disease threatening the UK’s ash trees has been launched.
Chalara ash dieback, which could kill millions of ash trees, was first identified in the UK last year and experts fear it could have the same devastating impact on the country’s woodlands and landscape as Dutch elm disease in the 1970s. But scientists and developers have designed an online game which they hope will enable people to help identify variations in the genetic code of ash trees and in the Chalara fungus, as part of efforts to breed trees which are resistant to disease.
The experts behind the Fraxinus game say that it is easy to play and relies on the human brain’s ability to see patterns faster and more accurately than a computer can.
Players will have to try to match up sequences of coloured leaves, which represent strings of genetic information from ash trees in the UK and from a resistant tree taken from Denmark, where ash trees were badly hit by disease.
The data gathered from players will help identify which individual trees should be cross-bred with each other to best create resistant ash trees.
Russell Stearman, game designer from Team Cooper, said: “This game has great potential not just to raise awareness but to contribute research to the problem.”