Wildlife Trusts Action for Ash

This page contains 8 reader comments. Click here to view (latest Thu 01/11/12 16:40).

As Defra Secretary of State Owen Paterson met the Forestry Commission this weekend to consider what action to take to control ash dieback disease casued by the fungus Chalara fraxinea, The Wildlife Trusts urged members and supporters to report potential sightings of infected trees, in the hope that the ecological impacts of this devastating disease can be minimised.

In a letter sent to the Secretary of State, René Olivieri, Chair of The Wildlife Trusts, said that it is clearly very disappointing that failure to ban the import and movement of ash trees has resulted in the disease spreading into the natural environment — and one of Norfolk Wildlife Trust's nature reserves — and encouraged the Secretary of State to introduce a mandatory ban on imports of ash trees to prevent more disease entering the country and on the movement of ash trees around the country; to assess how far the disease has spread and halt it from spreading further around Britain; and to set up an Emergency Summit, to co-ordinate action to halt the spread of the disease, to bring together appropriate scientists, commercial interests and representatives of landowning bodies including conservation organisations.

Ash tree (ARG_Flickr).

Mr Olivieri said: "We are concerned about the spread of this disease as the 47 Wildlife Trusts around the UK manage around 93,000 ha of land, which includes woodland. It now seems likely that the disease is present at Norfolk Wildlife Trust's nature reserve Lower Wood Ashwellthorpe, an ancient woodland and a Site of Special Scientific Interest. 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. For example, upland ashwoods, such as those in the Peak District, support rare woodland flowers, a rich invertebrate fauna and important lichens. Their loss would have a dramatic negative impact on our natural environment."

From the RSPB, Martin Harper, Director of Conservation, said: “Ash trees are the crowd-pleasers of nature; they do a lot for all kinds of different animals and plants, from providing great roosting sites and warm holes to nest in, to perfect places to forage for food and ideal spots to flourish and grow. Birds, bats, fungi, plants, insects and more all use ash trees in one way or another meaning this disease has the potential to damage ecosystems in a big way. This is a stark reminder that non-native plants and animals can wreak havoc on already over-stressed habitats and native wildlife. While we welcome the Government’s ban on imports, it is not enough in itself. The EU is currently developing new international legislation on invasive non-native species and this is a major opportunity to prevent future problems. The big lesson here is that, sometimes, strong environmental regulation is needed to protect all our interests.”

The information in this article was believed correct at the time of writing. BirdGuides accepts no responsibility for errors, or for any consequences of acting on information in the article. The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily shared by BirdGuides Ltd.

hide section Reader comments (8)

Apologies for cross-posting, but some example photos of the symptoms of Chalara ash dieback can be found on this BBC News webpage: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-20128643 or in this Forestry Commission document: http://www.forestry.gov.uk/pdf/pest-alert-ash-dieback-2012.pdf/$FILE/pest-alert-ash-dieback-2012.pdf There is also a smartphone app available via ashtag.org which enables users to upload photos and report sightings directly to the FC.
   Simon Edwards, 30/10/12 12:02Report inappropriate post Report 
I just cannot understand why no action has been taken until now when the threat in Europe has been known for several years. Why was there not an immediate import ban? Also, if the fungus was first identified in a tree nursery in the Spring why it has taken until Autumn when all the leaves are dying back to look for the disease and then to ban imports. This is incompetence of the highest order by DEFRA and the Forestry Commission. The environmental impact will be devastating.
   Terry, North Yorks., 30/10/12 14:29Report inappropriate post Report 
Action for Ash! What action? You better get out there and cut all your ash down then and burn it! We know invasive plants and animals or introduced pathogens cause real harm and costs hundreds of millions to rectify but the same old 'free' market (its not free when the public clears up the mess) of importing Ash Trees (goodness knows why we're importing Ash, it grows like cress) has to take precedent. Yet the Wildlife Trusts and others do very little campaigning about the potential problems. Why not? Are you afraid of saying something controversial or serious or are your magazines just pictures of school kids looking at tadpoles?
   Craig Howat, 30/10/12 17:39Report inappropriate post Report 
Lets just hope that we dont get another knee jerk reaction from Defra to cut down every ash tree to try and stop it spreading. Its airborne and probably been here for some years. Its been in Poland for at least 20 years and a lot of trees have died but not a huge percentage. Let it take its course. Its here, too late. Lots of ash trees like many trees die in the crown first for all sorts of reasons. Report anything to Defra/FC and there will be an over/wrong reaction. Any organisation that recently flatly refused to consider taking Moorhens and Golden Plover off the legal shooting list needs a good culling itself!
   Pete Jennings, 31/10/12 08:52Report inappropriate post Report 
Providing landowners don't fixate on clearing the dead trees in a futile attempt to stop the spread there will be a massive increase in wildlife habitat created by the increase in the dead wood. I'm looking forward to seeing an increase in lesser spotted woodpecker in the near future.
   Kevin Du Rose, 31/10/12 23:00Report inappropriate post Report 
This laissez fair attitude is incredible. Just let anything in and what the hell! An assessment needs to be undertaken and suitable step taken to control it. If this means cutting and destroying affected timber then so be it. Our ecosystems have been damaged enough without another completely preventable disease coming into the country and for what reason planting trees that don't need planting! Tree planting is a massive waste of time and money! Isn't ironic that the Woodland Trust set up to protect our woodlands may be responsible for wiping a native species out because of the PR of tree planting. The conservation lobby should call for strict controls on imports. Have you thought about all the mature trees that will die? You can't replace them and their cavities. If it acts like Dutch Elm we will be left with Ash scrub and that's all. Most of our hedgerow trees would be gone. Also the rare insects are associated with old Ash so they will go. This is a disaster not a bonanza!
   Craig Howat, 31/10/12 23:37Report inappropriate post Report 
Our native ash produces seedlings like mustard and cress so there should be no need for any imports. Ash is the most fantastic tree for nest-holes and cavities. Surely before any ash trees are felled they should be checked for cavities occupied by bats? Otherwise someone will be breaking the law?
   Pete Jennings, 01/11/12 15:52Report inappropriate post Report 
Forestry operations are exempt from this requirement. The safety issue will mean they will all be cut down. Has the penny dropped yet at what a catastrophe this will be?
   Craig Howat, 01/11/12 16:40Report inappropriate post Report 

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