Another crisis looks set to ravish our woodlands. The UK media has been reporting extensively on ash die-back disease having been found here. Ash trees at a number of sites in the UK have been found to be suffering from the disease caused by a fungal infection (official name Chalara. Fraxinea) which has already struck woodlands in European countries such as Denmark and Poland. There are two possible routes the disease has travelled to arrive in the UK: airborne spores which have been blown across the North Sea and infected trees imported from Europe. Whatever the cause, we now have it here in the UK and we are in a situation in which we will have to manage it, rather than eradicate it.
Approximately one in three trees in UK woodlands is an ash. I have lots of them on the edge of my allotment and the ash keys from the nearby mature trees rain down on us leading to ash tree saplings growing like weeds. We are constantly having to get rid of them. My fear is that that will become a memory as the disease spreads across the UK.
Back in the 1970s we saw the loss of most of our Dutch elms in Britain. Dutch elm disease left its mark everywhere. Millions of trees fell victim. I still remember spotting the elm in the woodland behind our house beginning to suffer from the disease. The Council was called, they came out and one day I got back from school and found the wrong tree had been cut down. Sometime later, the correct tree was felled and burnt.
I never thought I would see the day when another of our common woodland species would be threatened with near total loss.
Judging from the messages, posts and emails I receive from readers of this blog, I know many of you live in central and eastern Europe. If your area has suffered from ash die-back, post up a comment to tell me what happened and what the effects were. You can also email me – firstname.lastname@example.org.