There is no cure for ash dieback, but some trees are less susceptible to the disease. Investigating this natural resistance could be the best way to secure the future of the UK's ash trees.
Ash dieback causes trees to slowly die, drop limbs, collapse or fall. In places where infected trees grow beside roads and footpaths, they are likely to pose a threat to public safety.
As a result, in some cases infected ash trees will be removed for the safety of site users and to help control the spread of the disease. In these cases, ecological surveys are important to check for the presence of protected species such as badgers and dormice, enabling the appropriate mitigation to be undertaken.
Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust will be doing as much as possible to tackle the disease, including:
- Monitoring infected trees
- Felling infected trees that could be dangerous to visitors
- Monitoring and identifying trees that seem to be resistant to the disease, and trying to encourage natural regeneration from them
- Where appropriate, allow deadwood to remain and new open habitats to be created within woodlands, as ash trees die or are felled
- Continue to look at potential tree species that could be a suitable replacement for ash, and introduce them where needed
Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust is so concerned about the situation that its staff and volunteers are working to grow replacements. At the new tree nursery at Lower Woods Nature Reserve, oak tree saplings are being grown from acorns collected in the woods. When the saplings are around 48 months old they will be planted in the woods to help fill the gaps resulting from ash tree losses. Other species of trees will also be raised here: hazel, hornbeam, beech and even a few walnut trees. Wild service and hawthorn will also be raised, but these are much more difficult to grow from seed than oak trees and require specialist knowledge.
The nursery has been built by staff and volunteers, including a potting shed made entirely using timber harvested from the woodland.
What can you do?
Biosecurity is important to help manage the spread of the disease. Simple steps such as washing your footwear before and after walking in woodland, sticking to footpaths and washing bike and car tyres can all help reduce the risk of spores being spread.