We will rightly mourn the demise of ash trees from our woods, copses and country lanes if most of them succumb to deadly Chalara fungus. But the dead wood they will provide will be an enormous boost for Britain’s biodiversity. Dead wood is the richest habitat in a healthy forest. It supports a huge variety of wood-boring invertebrates, plus a battalion of fungi whose thread-like filaments penetrate deep inside to slowly decompose it, returning its nutrients to the forest soil.

A forest with plenty of dead timber provides a cornucopia of invertebrates for birds such as nuthatches, warblers and woodpeckers to feast on. And large dead trees, because rot holes more easily develop in them, are good places for hole-breeding species like bats, jackdaws and tawny owls.

If swathes of ash trees start dying Britain-wide, the policy of fell and burn to stop the spread of the fungus will serve no further purpose. Dead trees mustn’t be squandered.

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/mourn-the-passing-of-the-ash-tree-but-for-conservationists-there-is-a-silver-lining-8329356.html

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