Ash dieback – RFS joins surveys

Date Issued: 25 October 2012
RFS President, Nick Halsey, announces ash dieback survey at RFS woodlands

The RFS is surveying its own woodlands and repeating its call for sanitation felling and import bans following the discovery of ash dieback (Chalara fraxinea) in East Anglia on native trees. Ash dieback, a fungal disease, is widespread on the Continent – in Denmark it has killed 90% of all ash.

Until this week’s announcements by the Forestry Commission it had been thought that it was present in the UK only on imported trees which were traceable and being destroyed. The recent announcement suggests that ash dieback may now be spreading across native trees, raising the spectre of a loss of trees in the countryside and in towns on a scale last seen when Dutch Elm Disease swept thrugh the country in the mid-1970s.

Ash is the fourth most common woodland tree in the UK, and one of the largest. Ash dieback symptoms include black spots that can turn into cankers on the tree’s bark, brittle dying twigs and branches, leaves turning brown or black and wilting before dropping off, and crown die back.

RFS President Nick Halsey said: “Everyone who loves trees, our countryside and our woodlands needs to be diligent about reporting potential outbreaks. The RFS has two woodlands which include ash – a young woodland in north west Leicestershire within the National Forest, and our Hockeridge and Pancake woodlands in the Chilterns which includes some ancient woodland. We will be surveying them as a matter of urgency.

“We need a concerted effort across the nation to try to prevent what could be a catastrophic change to our landscapes and woodland habitats if this disease takes hold. We urge all RFS members to survey any woodlands they are involved in and report suspected cases.”

Although the interactions which lead to the spread of ash dieback are not yet fully understood the RFS is also urging woodland owners and managers to implement rigorous biosecurity measures – disinfecting boots and equipment of anyone going into woodlands.

The RFS has already joined calls for the Government to implement an immediate ban on imports of stock, and urged buyers to make sure they check the provenance of all seedlings, whips and young trees that they buy.

Suspected cases of ash dieback must be reported. Details of how to identify and report the disease and are available on the Forestry Commission web site www.forestry.gov.uk.


Important information for visitors to woodlands

Please arrive in clean footwear – and scrub up again before leaving the venue.

The RFS follows the biosecurity measures recommended by the Forestry Commission (FC) and Defra to minimise the risk of spreading soil-borne tree infections. Clean boots are a first step!

For further information, please visit the Forestry Commission’s biosecurity page, which contains information about plant pests and diseases, plus downloadable posters and factsheets.