Ash dieback spreads in British countryside

Ash dieback caused by the pathogenic fungus Chalara fraxinea has been confirmed on woodland trees in the British countryside.

In this case I am not happy in being proven correct in my prediction of just two days ago, see Ash dieback could devastate Britain’s landscape, that the disease was in all likelihood already loose way beyond the tree nurseries where it was first reported. As Britain’s third most common tree species, the consequences are indeed very serious.

The outbreak in East Anglia was confirmed today by plant scientists from the Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera). Ash dieback Chalara fraxinea was found at two separate sites: (1) the Woodland Trust’s Pound Farm woodland in Suffolk, and (2) Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s Lower Wood nature reserve near Ashwellthorpe. These are the first confirmed reports following the initial import of the disease on plants brought in from the continent by a Buckinghamshire nursery, which subsequently distributed ash plants to some 90 customers across the country. The location of these initial plantings is not public knowledge.

Download the latest national map of confirmed Chalara outbreak sites
Download the latest national map of confirmed Chalara outbreak sites from the Forestry Commission

[UPDATE] I prepared initially my own Google map to mark these first countryside outbreaks. The Forestry Commission have subsequently been releasing a national map of confirmed outbreak sites on a regular basis, so instead I now provide a link to their online map here (it is quite a large pdf file so allow some time for it to download).

Gabriel Hemery


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11 thoughts on “Ash dieback spreads in British countryside

  1. Is there any way to sue the nursery as well as charge it for all the costs associated with this? Why should we as taxpayers be continuously forced to bear the cost of environmental damage inflicted by othes?. Unless we make companies pay for their environmental damage we will never stop it.

    1. This is yet another reason for the introduction of the Crime Against Humanity known as Ecocide. It may seem like Ash Die Back is not a crime against us but when you look further into the relationship between humans and their environment you quickly begin to realise that to remove the environment, or a small part of it is a crime against humanity. Even if it is ‘only’ a small part of an environment (perceived as small in the face of the larger global context) it will have far reaching impacts which will lead to the further collapses of more ecosystems. Think of all the ecosystems as part of a Swiss watch. Take a cog out or a lever and it will stop working. Take a part of the ecosystem away and the links it makes with other ecosystems are cut. They in time will fail for lack of natural inputs, exchanges and the buffering effects of these linked habitats. Each is reliant upon its neighbour/partner/association for its existence.

      1. A thought-provoking response Kevin. We must remember that humans are part of ecosystems too, and responsible for the make-up of many in their current form. As we are learning all too vividly, we are shaping their future every day. Humans are responsible for many naturalised tree species, such as beech (contentious I know) that we love in the Chilterns for example, and the forest ecosystems that they are part of (such as coppice woodlands). Too much of Britain’s conservation effort has tried to ignore this in the past and now we must wake up to the fact that we are as much part of nature as other life forms in the biosphere, even when the enlightened among us may often cast ourselves out as the villain.

  2. This is slightly spooky because I only mentioned yesterday the idea of the Woodland Trust (among others) not planting any trees for a year or so to fund research and control measures into this serious issue and look what pops out of the woods so to speak. A site planted by the Woodland Trust showing signs of Ash Die Back. Worrying to say the least.
    One question that is on my mind, which I am sure others will be also asking, is why we have to import foreign grown trees to the UK when we have plenty of seedlings growing here? My garden is full of Ash seedlings, some of which I have planted on. Please don’t anyone suggest its cost because that to my mind is exactly the sort of excuse that has already got us into more trouble than enough. If cost is the reason then it is worth remembering that ‘there is always a price to pay’ and ‘nothing is free’. Seems to me that the price being paid right now and into the future for being penny wise is the pound foolish legacy of Ash Die Back and the demise of an entire ecosystem in the UK and that is in addition to the industrial and economic losses that will be incurred especially when we have to end up importing more timber from overseas to make up for what we have allowed to be destroyed……all to save a few pennies on each tree.
    Something to be said for ‘Homegrown’.

    1. Just in case anyone misunderstands my view I am not against the Woodland Trust (being a member). I just wanted to highlight the potentials that exist for funding from all these groups. (see my posting on the main article ‘Ash dieback could devastate Britain’s landscape’ from yesterday)
      I also forwarded the original article to the Ancient Tree Hunt for the verifiers to become aware of the need for extra bio-security measures. Got to start somewhere.

  3. I hope it doesn’t spread, but sooner or latter it probably will. Past experience tells us that these things are never contained. I wonder what will take over once ash is rare? Sycamore? Norway Maple? Hopefully very resistant specimens are found that can be cloned from cuttings and planted in infected ash woods to try and impart some of their resistance onto the next generations of ash sexually.
    Breeding a load of resistant ash clones is no good since it will just make them genetically identical / similar, thus just waiting for the next epidemic. Obviously most ash seedlings in the area wouldn’t necessarily become resistant, but some should at least and numbers could be built up again from those and eventually the species could recover.

    Sadly a lot of local provenance is likely to be lost in the process of finding resistant specimens and some locally adapted populations may die out or be changed. On the positive side it would encourage genetic diversity and hopefully their adaptability as a result, but it would also destroy many untold local adaptations.

  4. It is worth noting that scientist at Forest Research have been warning about the risks of pathogens such as Chalara fraxinea and Phytophthora sp. for years, but Government has refused to take any notice on the grounds that would “place burdens on business”. The current government is cutting the budget of Forest Research over 25% and expects to cut staff numbers by almost 30% by 2015. Given this background we can only expect thing to get worse.

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