The UK government today announced an action plan to control the spread of ‘ash dieback’, a disease caused by the fungus Chalara fraxinea, but this will not stop the pathogen from killing up to 99% of the ash trees in the country, say scientists.
Diseased trees in nurseries — and those that have been newly planted — will be identified and destroyed. Mature trees will be left standing, as they take longer to die and are valuable to wildlife, and can help in the search for naturally resistant trees. The import ban on ash trees that was implemented at the end of October will remain in place.
These measures, however, will not eradicate the disease from the United Kingdom. “There is absolutely no magic wand we can wave to make this disappear,” UK environment secretary Owen Paterson said at a press briefing in London this morning. Ash is the third most common tree in the United Kingdom, and with as many as 90 million ash trees at risk, the disease threatens to irreversibly change the shape of the British countryside.