ASH DIEBACK: As the Government holds an emergency summit today to tackle the arrival and spread of ash dieback in the UK, the Woodland Trust publishes a three point plan to make clear its ongoing commitment to the issue of tree disease as a whole.

Ash Tree by SteveR
Ash Tree by SteveR

Woodland Trust Chief Executive, Sue Holden said:

“We are committed to tackling the growing threat of all tree pests and diseases in the UK and, by publishing this plan, we will continue to lead the fight for the future of our trees and woods. We will work collaboratively with specialists in the sector as well as involving the public in our mission.

“More specifically, by investing in our own tree nurseries, we aim to stamp out any risk of importing further disease. We will also work closely with community and voluntary tree nurseries to the same end.

“The Woodland Trust has been working to raise awareness of these issues for a number of years and has drawn attention to the need to enforce stricter measures to stop the import and spread of tree disease. Until a tragedy such as ash dieback becomes a reality, it is difficult to impress upon people the importance of protecting the UK’s trees and the need to enforce stricter controls to prevent new pests and diseases entering the country.

“We also will fight to ensure that greater priority is given to trees and woods by Government. The situation regarding ash dieback is a sad reflection of the degree of priority that has been given to the protection and safeguarding of our natural woodland resources and of the environment as a whole. This must be immediately addressed.”

TREE HEALTH – THE WOODLAND TRUST’S THREE POINT PLAN:

1. Bringing scientists and the public together to monitor and protect the UK’s trees and woods

Together with the Forestry Commission, FERA and the National Trust, the Woodland Trust has submitted a bid for funding to the EU LIFE fund (total value £2.5m) for a five-year project to enable tree health scientists to greatly extend their reach and knowledge of the health of the UK’s trees. By enlisting and supporting members of the public to become citizen scientists, we will be able to monitor and report on the health of trees across the UK, providing a comprehensive early warning system for tree pests and diseases.

We will not know the outcome of this bid until September 2013, and success is not guaranteed. Given the urgency of the current tree health crisis we can’t wait for the EU bidding process to run its slow course. We want to close the one million pound funding gap and implement this project now.

2. Growing our own

Our bold vision of doubling native woodland cover involves us buying hundreds of thousands of trees every year to plant on our own estate or to give or sell to others. Recent events have shown that we cannot have confidence in current supply chain processes. We intend to ensure that we can have 100% confidence that we plant only trees that are truly UK grown and are disease free. We will invest in UK tree nurseries, working closely with them over a long period of time to produce the trees we need, trees in which we can have 100% confidence. In parallel we will support, and/or invest in community and local tree nurseries to help to ensure that new tree planting is truly rooted in the community.

3. Keeping woodland alive

We will set up one or more events to bring together specialists from the UK, Europe and the wider world to share knowledge, and to help us to safeguard the conservation benefits of UK trees and woods in the face of an unprecedented wave of pests and diseases.

Ash Dieback (Chalara Fraxinea)

  • The situation is already dire in central Europe with some 90 per cent of ash trees in Demark and 80% of ash stands in Poland affected and it is becoming widespread throughout central Europe. The disease has been observed to spread up to 20-30km per annum once established.
  • The Woodland Trust will no longer plant imported ash trees and has taken the decision not to plant ash on the majority of its estate or advocate its planting by others this year.
  • The ash dieback outbreak has been found at the Woodland Trust site Pound Farm, near Great Glenham in Suffolk. The site was purchased by the Trust in 1992 and is around 90ha in size and is a mix of new native plantings and existing ancient woodland.

Further Information

You can learn more about the Woodland Trust and threats to our trees at: http://treedisease.co.uk/

If you want to volunteer your time in helping the Woodland Trust identify Trees that have become diseased, please visit: http://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/en/campaigning/rescue/Pages/default.aspx

Photograph of Ash Tree by SteveR, released under a Creative Commons Licence.
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