Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 31 August 2014

New ash tree disease cases found

Ash dieback disease has been found in 115 sites across 10 counties, Defra has confirmed

A disease threatening to devastate the UK's ash trees has now been found in woodlands in 10 English counties - as experts warn little can be done to stop its spread.

Cases of Chalara ash dieback have been confirmed in woodlands in six more counties - Sussex, Berkshire, Lincolnshire, Yorkshire, Bedfordshire and Northumberland - in addition to Norfolk, Suffolk, Kent and Essex where it had already been identified in the countryside.

The latest figures show the disease, caused by the fungus Chalara fraxinea, has been found in 61 locations in the wider countryside, as well as 39 planting sites and 15 tree nurseries, a total of 115 sites across the UK.

Some of the sites had hundreds of infected ash trees, while in others, just a handful were found.

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 some parts of Denmark and is becoming widespread throughout central Europe.

There are fears that the UK's ash trees are facing a similar fate to its elms, which were destroyed by Dutch elm disease in the 1970s.

The results of the survey by hundreds of officials in the past week were revealed as Environment Secretary Owen Paterson held a summit with representatives of industry, conservation groups and experts to discuss the problem.

An action plan to deal with the disease is due to be published on Friday following another meeting of the Government's emergency committee on the issue.

After the summit, Mr Paterson said: "We called this summit to bring together the best ideas from experts and all who care for our forests so we can urgently prepare an action plan on how to tackle Chalara and better protect our trees for the future.

"Many of the ideas discussed today are extremely interesting, and our scientists and plant health experts will examine them urgently and include the most effective ones in an action plan by the end of the week."

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