Ash dieback

Staffordshire Wildlife Trust is very concerned about the spread of ash dieback disease in the UK. Ash trees, as hedgerow and field trees, are an important feature in our landscape and also a key component of ecologically unique woodlands that support rare species.

We welcome the five point plan* for addressing ash die back (Chalara fraxinea) in the short-term, issued by Secretary of State Owen Paterson on November 9.

Paul Wilkinson, The Wildlife Trusts’ Head of Living Landscapes, said: “We are reassured by this statement and the specific reference to the importance of preserving mature trees in the short-term. This needs to be a longer-term commitment. We need to allow and encourage nature to heal itself. Genetically resistant trees should be identified and protected. A rich environment is more likely to support trees that are genetically diverse, and so able to breed natural resistance.”

Tree diseases, which come from fungal, bacterial or viral sources, are part of the natural cycle in woodland. They are a form of natural disturbance that can create diversity.

Ahead of a more detailed control plan, due to be issued at the end of this month, The Wildlife Trusts’ Paul Wilkinson, added:

“We will play our part in spotting the disease and help Government develop further measures for the long-term. Central to this should be strengthening the resilience of our natural environment to cope with these and other stresses. Government must invest in creating habitats that can survive and adapt in the face of an increasing range of pressures. Developing an ecologically robust landscape will be the best insurance policy against disturbances like tree diseases.”

* The five point plan for addressing ash die back in the short-term, announced by Secretary of State Owen Paterson

1. Newly-planted diseased trees and diseased trees in nurseries will be traced and destroyed, as once young trees are infected they succumb quickly.

2. Mature trees will not currently be removed, as they are valuable to wildlife, take longer to die and can help us learn more about genetic strains that might be resistant to the disease. Infection does not occur directly from tree to tree.

3. Better understanding of the disease will be built through research and surveys, which will look not only for diseased trees but for those that show signs of resistance to Chalara, to help identify genetic strains resistant to the disease.

4. The search for the disease will include trees in towns and cities as well as the countryside, building partnerships with a range of organisations beyond Government.

5. Foresters, land managers, environmental groups and the public will be informed about how to identify diseased trees and those likely to be resistant to the disease, and know what to do if they find a diseased tree.