We’ve all been concerned to hear about the new threat to our woodlands of Ash Dieback. This disease, caused by the fungus Chalara fraxina, is spread by infected ash leaves. The fungus infects 60-90% of the trees in its path, causing leaf loss, bark lesions and crown dieback. Young ash trees are killed very rapidly by the disease. Older trees often resist the disease for longer periods but succumb with prolonged exposure. Ash dieback was first observed in Poland in 1992 and has since spread to 21 European countries, it has affected 90-95% of Danish ash trees since 2002. In Britain, it was discovered in nursery trees in February 2012 but has since been found in the natural environment.
Devastating to the species dependent on them
At the time of writing, there were yet to be any cases reported in Dorset, however as spring gets going the signs become more visible and the disease will no doubt come to the county soon. Ash trees make up around 30% of England’s woodland cover and in Dorset are an important element of our woodlands, hedgerows and ancient trees. They are particularly important for lichens, their bark providing unique conditions which are not found in other tree species. Loss of our ash woodlands would be devastating to the species dependent on them, and cause a major change in this country’s woodland ecology.
The Wildlife Trusts are urging an approach to managing the disease which takes neither unnecessary risks, nor drastic measures such as felling ash woodlands, which could mean losing naturally resilient varieties. At the end of October 2012 the Government introduced a mandatory ban on imports of ash trees, saplings or seeds and restrictions on movement of trees around the country. The long term objective must be to promote genetic resistance to the disease, so that ash woodlands can naturally regenerate, and naturally resistant varieties can eventually be found for planting schemes.
What you can do:
Whilst there is a low probability of carrying the spores on clothing and footwear, Forestry Commission advice is to avoid moving ash leaves around the countryside. You can help by ensuring your boots and car tyres are clear of leaves at the start and end of your visit to a woodland or nature reserve.
If you see a tree that you suspect might be infected, please report it to the Forestry Commission, with photos see http://www.forestry.gov.uk/ for more information; if you have a smartphone you can download the new Ashtag app at http://www.ashtag.org If a possible infection is spotted on a DWT reserve, please can you also let us know. We will of course also be checking our sites for signs regularly.
About Dorset Wildlife Trust www.dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk
Working for a secure future for Dorset’s wildlife enriching the quality of life
Dorset Wildlife Trust is part of the Natural Weymouth and Portland Partnership; connecting people with nature
Dorset Wildlife Trust works to champion wildlife and natural places, to engage and inspire people and to promote sustainable living. Founded in 1961, DWT is now the largest voluntary nature conservation organisation in Dorset, with over 25,000 members and over 40 nature reserves. Most are open daily and there are visitor centres providing a wealth of wildlife information at Brooklands Farm, Lorton Meadows, Kingcombe Meadows and Brownsea Island Nature Reserves, The Purbeck Marine Wildlife Reserve and the Urban Wildlife Centre at Upton Heath Nature Reserve. DWT plays a key role in dealing with local environmental issues and leads the way in establishing the practices of sustainable development and engaging new audiences in conservation, particularly in the urban areas.
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