Trust urges public help to fight deadly ash tree disease

Crewe Guardian: A diseased ash leaf on a tree affected by the Norfolk outbreak of Chalara fraxinea A diseased ash leaf on a tree affected by the Norfolk outbreak of Chalara fraxinea

RESIDENTS living in wooded parts of Crewe and Nantwich are being asked to keep a look out for symptoms of a deadly fungal disease affecting ash trees.

Cheshire Wildlife Trust (CWT) has warned against the potentially devastating impact of the Chalara fraxinea fungus - dubbed ‘ash dieback’ - which has been found in wild UK trees for the first time.

The charity warned the disease posed a very real threat to Cheshire, which is already one of the least wooded counties in the UK, with 6.4 per cent of woodland cover compared to the UK average of ten.

The discovery of Chalara on nature reserves in Norfolk and Suffolk has recalled memories of Dutch elm disease in the 1970s.

Jacki Hulse from CWT said: “Sadly, I can still remember how the face of our countryside changed after Dutch elm disease.

“Most of our beautiful and stunning woodland clough nature reserves in Cheshire are dominated by ash trees, and losing them would ultimately change those woodlands forever, possibly irrecoverably, as non-native species such as sycamore may then take over.

“It seems that with every turning leaf this autumn our countryside and wildlife is facing a new battle, but we hope with swift action from the government and the public, this is one challenge we can overcome.”

The Government banned importing ash from Monday, October 29. Up to 100,000 ash trees have been destroyed in an effort to tackle the spread.

Around 80 million ash trees are at risk in the UK. Ninety per cent of ash specimens were lost in Denmark to Chalara.

The trust is encouraging people to take photographs where possible, to help distinguish between the disease and natural autumn changes in leaf cover.

Though autumn makes it more difficult to spot the disease, there are certain symptoms readers can look out for:- Leaves begin to die at the crown of the tree.

Dark lesions, often long, thin and diamond-shaped, appear on the trunk, centred around the base of dead shoots.

The tips of shoots become black and shriveled.

The veins of leaves, normally pale in colour, turn brown.

Guidance on the symptoms can be found at www.cheshirewildlifetrust.org.uk Members of the public who think they have seen signs of ash dieback should contact the Forestry Commission with the tree’s location on 0131 314 6414 or by email at plant.health@forestry.gsi.gov.uk.

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