August 20 2014 Latest news:
Friday, May 16, 2014
Wildlife experts have said there are reasons for optimism despite the continued spread of ash dieback.
Although a recent report suggested that half of East Anglia’s ash will be infected by 2018, due to air borne spores of the chalara fraxinea fungus, many already affected by the disease are showing a high level of resilience.
Julian Roughton, chief executive of Suffolk Wildlife Trust, said: “This issue of low resistance but high resilience is being borne out where we are seeing the disease in that there are a lot of ash trees with it but, so far, relatively few being killed by the disease. We can see this spring that there are new shoots coming up and the trees are responding. They are not being killed, but they are certainly being affected. The disease is certainly very widespread.”
Mr Roughton said even on reserves such as Arger Fen near Sudbury, where dieback can clearly be seen, there is also new grow and healthy trees.
“When you are walking round Arger Fen it is very visible because young trees are much more affected by the disease than older trees” he said. “All of the ash there are under eight-years-old and it is very evident the disease is there - you can see the majority of trees have it. But having said that, there are healthy trees there as well so from our point of view that is interesting.”
He added: “What is interesting for us is whether the ash trees that look healthy will continue to look healthy in one or two year’s time. Even those that look sick, many of them are sending new shoots through. Some of them have been killed, but many more are showing high resilience.”
The disease has also provided opportunities for other trees, with field maple, oak, hawthorn and birch all doing well at Hullbacks due to ash being held back by the toxic fungus. Mr Roughton added: “In a way it is actually giving things a break that are not as competitive in ash. It certainly has resulted in a more interesting wood than would have been the case.”
A project with the Forestry Commission to plant ash with a wide range of genetic sources at the Peck’s Piece on Arger Fen also appears positive, although it is still in the early stages.
Mr Roughton said: “There the ash dieback does not look as prevalent, but it is very early days in terms of that experiment. Those trees have only been there literally only 12 months. They were every small last year, so this year is going to be interesting year in terms of monitoring impact.”
He added the Trust’s main concern continued to be the impact on veteran trees with significant landscape value.