The killer fungus threatening a third of Britain’s woodland could take a terrible toll on rare insects, birds and bats that rely upon ash trees for their survival, according to wildlife experts.

Martin Harper, the RSPB’s director of conservation, said: “Ash trees are the crowd pleasers of nature – they do a lot for all kinds of different animals and plants, from providing great roosting sites and warm holes to nest in, to perfect places to forage for food and ideal spots to flourish and grow. This disease has the potential to damage ecosystems in a big way.”