Wind brings threat to our countryside

OUR countryside could look a very different place in years to come.

Horse chestnut trees are already under threat – several in Beatrice Avenue, Felixstowe, have had to be felled – with bleeding canker ruining thousands across the country.

Now ash dieback is threatening to wipe out our ash trees – 80 million nationwide, one-third of all trees outside of farmed woodland.

There is no cure for the deadly disease, Chalara fraxinea. It is hard to imagine one in three of our trees disappearing.

The loss will sadly make our landscape look very different, like the Dutch elm disease epidemic which laid waste to another of our most loved and iconic trees.

But it’s not just ash trees facing an uncertain future, the threat from foreign pests and diseases is said to be unprecedented.

More than three million larch, and thousands of oaks and, of course, chestnuts, have been destroyed in the past three years to prevent other fatal plant diseases spreading out of control.

Most Read

The non-native Asian longhorn beetle, thought to have entered the UK in packaging from China, is also posing a serious threat to a wide range of broadleaved trees and shrubs, including sycamore, maple, elm, willow, poplar and birch.

And, according to the experts, it is only the tip of the iceberg. The only surprise is that such environmental disasters are not more frequent.

It is thought the Chalara fraxinea bacteria was blown to our shores from Europe. It is that easy for a destructive spore to reach its target, innocently caught on the wind and transported miles.

With a worldwide cargo network, insects can be easily accidentally across continents to bring their devastation.

Global warming, of course, could change our landscape beyond recognition in the long-term – different birds, butterflies and insects, enticed by an ever so slightly warmer climate will become more frequent.

Trees species will gradually move north as temperatures rise, southern England is now a thriving wine area.

A degree or two extra in average temperatures is not noticed by us, but to the plant and animal world it is an enormous change. Come back – if we could – in a thousand years and we might not recognise our land.