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What we are doing to fight ash dieback

Ash dieback, also known as Chalara dieback of ash, is having a real impact on our woodland and trees. It is predicted that the disease will spread further in the years ahead, threatening populations of ash trees. Find out how we are working in a race against time to safeguard our trees for the future.

Fight against ash dieback at Hucking Estate

At our Hucking Estate in Kent and on Pound farm, Suffolk, we are working with the Forestry Commission and scientists at Forest Research as part of the Chalara ash dieback resistance screening trials. This research involves trialling plantations of young ash trees to find out which ones are naturally resistant to ash dieback. Identifying which trees have a natural resistance will be used in breeding programmes so that we can save ash for the future.

Austin Brady explains how we are researching ash dieback resistance at our Hucking Estate.

Fighting ash dieback at Pound Farm

In partnership with the Forestry Commission, we have planted ash trees in trial plots at Pound Farm, Suffolk from 14 different parts of the UK, with the aim of identifying ash trees that may be naturally resistant or tolerant of ash dieback.

We are working with land managers, local authorities, government agencies and others to:

  • Increase awareness of ash dieback, and the potentially devastating consequences
  • Trial a number of different responses to ash dieback and other diseases
  • Plant a mix of tree species across the UK, to improve the resilience of our landscape
  • Work closely with tree nurseries to source and grow UK stock, to most effectively combat the disease

As part of this work, we have already developed tailored Disease Recovery Packs that we are offering to landowners at a reduced cost in the most affected areas, as well as other nationwide subsidised tree planting schemes and our free Community Tree Packs for community groups.

We hosted an event at our Pound Farm site in Suffolk to gather expert opinion and debate key topics from industry professionals and stakeholders in response to tree disease.

Sourcing our trees and seeds

All our trees are guaranteed to have been sourced and grown in the British Isles for the whole of their lives. Importing live plants is one of the major routes into the country for ‘new’ pests and diseases. Therefore, reducing the number of imports reduces this risk.

Infected trees on our sites

Ash dieback has been found at some Woodland Trust sites. Ash trees planted at our Heartwood site (near St Albans in Hertfordshire) were confirmed through laboratory tests as being infected and have been destroyed.

Ash dieback has also been found on Pound Farm (near Great Glenham in Suffolk) and Hucking Estate (near Maidstone, Kent). Both sites include areas of new planting and ancient woodland, supporting a host of rare wildlife and many species of butterfly. Unfortunately the disease has been found in the mature woodland and new planting.

We are not restricting visitors, but ask people to follow basic biosecurity precautions to help slow the spread of the disease.

Recognising the fact that we can never hope to keep out all threats and that some may arrive by natural processes, building resilience in our ancient and native woods is seen as the best way of safeguarding them, and the wildlife that depends on them, in the long term. This will require different steps by many different parties but increasing the diversity of woodland structure, using a wider range of native species and fostering greater genetic diversity within our woodlands will be key.

Campaigning for better biosecurity

The Woodland Trust is lobbying for better biosecurity at our borders and much better surveillance of pests and diseases.

Observatree – an early warning system for tree health

Observatree is a four year partnership project started in 2013. This new tree health early warning system in the UK aims to monitor the health of and identify pest and disease threats to UK trees at the earliest possible stage. By engaging citizen scientists with leading tree health organisations we have helped develop systems to detect and verify pests and diseases in order to avoid their spread and minimise woodland loss. Tree health officers and forestry professionals are especially being encouraged to use the Forestry Commission’s Tree Alert, an online reporting tool which allows anyone to report trees showing signs of ill-health.