Friday, 2 November 2012

Ash dieback: public urged to act now to help stop its spread to Lancashire

Over the last few days, news reports have revealed that British ash trees are threatened by Chalara fraxinea or ash dieback.  The disease causes leaf loss and crown dieback and can lead to tree death, and was first found at sites in East Anglia and could devastate the 80 million ash trees across Britain.

Lancashire has many ash trees and the county council is monitoring the situation closely, as organizations rally to warn the public of the issue which could be as devastating to our woodlands as Dutch Elm disease in the past.

Over 50,000 trees have already been burnt since the disease was found in the UK in February 2012.

Paul Bullimore, Lancashire County Council's woodland and forestry officer, said: "Ash is a common native tree across Lancashire and forms an important part of many of our woodlands.

"They are also commonly found as hedgerow trees. Although there have been no reported outbreaks in the North West, the Chalara disease has the potential to make a significant impact on our landscape.

"We are working closely with the Forestry Commission and district councils to monitor the situation and help to identify any potential outbreaks in the county."

"Lancaster City Council recognises the potential for a disease outbreak within the district and the adverse impact that this would have on the local landscape and tree population," Maxine Knagg, the council's Tree Protection Officer told virtual-lancaster.

"We are currently working to develop a strategic approach in the event an outbreak occurring and will continue to seek guidance from the Forestry Commission and other related authorities during this process, in order that we may respond promptly, effectively and within available resources.

"In the meantime, the council is assisting  the Forestry Commission and other related authorities in providing information to members of the public on what to look for and who to contact if an affected tree is identified via its website - www.lancaster.gov.uk/trees."


 Above: How to spot Ash Die-Back, courtesy of the Forestry Commission


Once trees lose their leaves, it’s much harder to spot the signs of ash dieback, so this coming weekend is vital: it could be the last chance to gather information about the health of our ash trees before spring. If you’re going for a walk in the woods this weekend,  you can help identify ash trees in danger.

Secretary of State, Owen Paterson MP, introduced a ban on the import and movement of ash across the UK last weekend and the Woodland Trust says it will do all they can to mitigate the spread of this disease in line with government instructions and advice, but there is still much more to be done.

"Unfortunately, we can confirm that the disease has been found in both the mature ancient woodland and woodland creation areas on our estate at Pound Farm in Suffolk," the Trust said in a statement. "In light of this discovery, we need government scientists to give urgent and clear advice to all woodland owners on how to manage the disease.

"We are now calling on the government to set up an emergency summit bringing together representatives from all areas of forestry, plant health and conservation. The Woodland Trust will play an active role in any task force that is created. Today ash is under threat, but tomorrow yet another of our precious native trees could be at risk.

If you come across a tree displaying symptoms of ash dieback, report it at once. The disease is most likely to be found in newly planted young trees.

You can report your findings to the following:

Forest Research Tree Health Diagnostic and Advisory Service Call: 01420 23000 Email: ddas.ah@forestry.gsi.gov.uk
Forestry Commission Plant Health Service Call: 0131 314 6414 Email: plant.health@forestry.gsi.gov.uk
•  Fera Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate Call: 01904 465625 Email: planthealth.info@fera.gsi.gov.uk

Computer programmers at the University of East Anglia have also teamed up with tree experts to make a clever piece of software called AshTag, which lets people send in photos and locations of ash trees they think may have ash dieback. The photos are checked by a team of experts and then action is taken to try to stop the spread of the disease.

If you have a smartphone or a digital camera, it’s simple. If you spot an ash tree with signs of the disease, take a photo and send it in using the website or the AshTag app on your mobile phone.

If you have an iPhone you can download the AshTag app by searching the App Store on your phone for “AshTag” or by clicking here: if you have an Android phone search for “AshTag” in the Google Play store from your phone or use this link

If you don’t have a smartphone you can take a digital photo and upload it onto the website here: www.ashtag.org

"Government has taken a few steps to try and stop the spread of the disease but there is concern that these measures won’t be enough," said a spokesperson for campaign site 38 Degrees, that is promoting the AshTag app, "and without tracking tree health, we won’t know whether or not the government’s plans are working.

"In Denmark this deadly disease has wiped out 90% of ash trees. We need to make sure that doesn’t happen to our trees here. If thousands of us get out into our woods to get the facts, we’ve got a much better chance of heading off a disaster for Britain’s beautiful woodlands.

• Click here to help protect our woodlands and find out how to spot signs of ash dieback: www.ashtag.org

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