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Tree Council launches national plan to tackle ash dieback

Author:  The Tree Council
  22/02/2019
Last Updated:  22/02/2019

Tree Council launches national plan to tackle threat to millions of Britain’s trees facing ash dieback disease

The Tree Council has developed a four-point plan to help local authorities fight ash dieback, the most significant tree disease to hit the UK since Dutch Elm disease emerged in the 1970s.

The plan, to be circulated as an easy-to-use “toolkit”, is designed to:

  • Raise awareness of the disease
  • Help councils create local action plans
  • Identify best practice for managing non-woodland trees
  • Advise on recovery and creation of alternative treescapes

Ash is the third most common tree in Britain and there are up to 60 million ash trees outside woodlands in the UK. Ash dieback was first officially recorded in the UK in 2012, with only a small fraction of trees proving resistant.

The Ash Dieback Action Plan Toolkit, prepared by The Tree Council and Fera Science Limited (formerly the Food and Environment Research Agency) with the support of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), brings together guidance and case studies from local authorities already tackling the issue.

It urges local authorities and others managing the landscape to address the threat now, rather than believing ash dieback can be managed as part of “business as usual”. The plan draws attention not only to the significant economic and environmental impacts, but also to the dangers dead and dying trees pose to human health and safety.

The plan, a living document that will be updated as scientists and local authorities discover more about the disease, is launched today. It encourages authorities to recruit volunteer local environmentalists to help in identifying the scale of the problem.

Sara Lom, CEO of The Tree Council, launching the Toolkit, said:

“It’s essential we support local authorities to manage the risks posed by the death of ash trees throughout the country. It’s a very real challenge, not only for them but also for our wonderful British treescape. We want our volunteer Tree Wardens to work with local authorities to help monitor and report on diseased trees and support replanting efforts.”

“Since ash dieback was first discovered in 2012, we have been working collaboratively with sectors that will be impacted by the disease.”,/p>

Says Defra’s Chief Plant Health Officer Nicola Spence.

“This includes investment of more than £6m into ash dieback research. This toolkit draws together practical guidance from that body of research and from the local authorities that have taken a lead in managing non-woodland trees. We believe this will help all authorities develop responses to the threat at a local level.

Blake Pain, Lead Member for Environment & Transport at Leicestershire County Council, one of the participating local authorities, said:

“developing an Ash Dieback Plan has enabled us to understand the potential scale and level of risk that the disease poses across Leicestershire, and allows us to put in place a proportionate and considered response from across the council that can evolve over time. This will allow us to prioritise resource where needed, and tailor our approach as we learn more about the disease.”

Ash dieback is caused by the Hymenoscyphus fraxineus fungus. It results in leaf loss, crown dieback and bark lesions. Mortality rates of up to 85% have recently been reported on some sites across Europe. However, a small proportion of trees are showing tolerance to the disease, and Defra are funding research on the mechanisms behind this which may allow tolerant UK ash trees to be bred for the future.

The Ash Dieback Action Plan Toolkit highlights the ways in which local authorities are proactively working together with their communities to tackle the effects of ash dieback. To discuss holding an event in your region on the Ash Dieback Action Plan Toolkit, contact The Tree Council on 020 7407 9992.