You may have heard about the ash dieback disease which has recently been discovered in the UK. To find out what this may mean for our trees here in the North West, read our brief Q&A:
What is ash dieback / chalara?
Ash dieback (Chalara fraxinea) is a fungus which has developed in mainland Europe over the past decade, and has been responsible for the death of 60-90% of ash trees in Denmark. It has recently been discovered in south east England and there is a danger that it will spread across the country.
How many of our trees are ash?
In Merseyside and Cheshire, approximately 6% of trees are ash.
What happens to infected trees?
The disease causes leaf loss and crown dieback in affected trees, and it can lead to tree death.
How is the disease spread?
The disease is primarily transmitted through the air, but first entered the UK via infected imported trees from Europe.
How is the UK responding?
The Forestry Commission and the Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA) carried out a national survey on 3/4 November 2012 to assess how far across the country the disease has spread. Following this, the government released a detailed action plan on 6 December, outlining the measures that Defra, the Forestry Commission, and FERA will be taking to combat ash dieback over the coming tree-planting season.
Has it been found in the North West?
You can view confirmed instances of ash dieback on the Forestry Commission's national map available halfway down their ash dieback homepage. At the time of writing (5/12/2012), there are no infected sites in The Mersey Forest area (Merseyside and North Cheshire).
Elsewhere in the North West, the only confirmed instances are within what are termed "recently planted sites" - these are isolated sites which have received young ash trees from a tree nursery or other supplier whose stock was infected.
There are no confirmed instances of infections in "the wider environment" in the region.
What is The Mersey Forest Team doing?
To reduce the likelihood of the disease becoming established in Merseyside and North Cheshire, we are developing a protocol and risk assessment for all of our tree planting and other activities this winter, based upon Forestry Commission guidance. We will be planting no ash trees as part of our programme this year.
As a precaution, sites that received ash trees as part of The Big Tree Plant last planting season in The Mersey Forest have been inspected by FERA.
We also organised an ash dieback information day on behalf of the Regional Forestry Forum, attended by more than 120 woodland professionals from across the North West on 4th December 2012.
What can I do to help?
The government is calling on everybody to keep an eye out for the symptoms of ash dieback when spending time in their woodlands. There are plenty of resources on the Forestry Commission website, including a video, to help you identify the disease.
If you think you have spotted ash dieback, take a photograph of the symptoms and record the exact location of the tree. Inform the Forestry Commission immediately, either by email (email@example.com) or by calling the Chalara helpline: 08459 33 55 77.
Alternatively, iPhone and Android users can download the Ash Tag smartphone application, which enables you to "tag" potentially infected ash trees and send the information directly to the Forestry Commission. If you don't have a smartphone, you can still submit details of the sighting to the Ash Tag website.
I'm a landowner with ash trees in my woodland. What should I do?
On 7 December, the Forestry Commission published an advice document for landowners, which gives specific advice about what you should do if you have ash trees on your land.
For further information about ash dieback, contact the Forestry Commission. If you would like to discuss any concerns about local sites, please contact The Mersey Forest team on 01925 816217.