Ash update a positive spin

It was no surprise to the scientific community when Secretary of State Owen Paterson announced on Friday that “It will not be possible to eradicate ash dieback” but members of the public and tree enthusiasts may well be shocked at the bleak future for Britain’s 80 million ash trees.

It was a timely speech that coincided with the news that Chalara fraxinea has been identified in six more English counties as well as sites in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland; but at least we are in Britain are not alone in this, C. fraxinea has been rampaging through Europe since the 1992.

COBR met last Friday and was chaired by Owen Paterson, after the Chalara and Tree Health Summit on Wednesday. These two events ensured that all involved parties across all sectors and disciplines were represented in the formulation of an immediate action plan. The out comes as summarised on Defra’s website included both short term and long term measures, in order to tackle C. fraxinea as effectively as possible, and set up systems that will be applicable for other present and future tree parasites.

On the positive side ‘we have all winter to tackle ash dieback’, said Owen Paterson on Friday, as it is during the summer months that transmission rates increase and spreading is most significant. The downside is that the effectiveness of our actions over the coming months cannot be fully realised until the spring when the new leaves begin to grow. It may also be that this degree of devastation provides the enormous motivation and drive the EU and its member states need to achieve current emission targets, improvements to legislative measures (concerning trade, biodiversity and conservation), increase relevant scientific funding and above all learn from this collectively through collaboration to ensure events like this become less frequent.

For more information on the C. fraxinea and the issues surrounding tree health see our previous blog, and stayed tuned for a comprehensive synthesis of tree health in Ecological Issues next year.