b Humans


To the Norse, it was the tree of life. Vikings called themselves, Aeslings, men of ash, believing that the first man was made from an ash tree. The universe, they believed, spins on an ash tree axis, Ygddrasil, the world tree, which has earth in its roots, and heaven in its canopy. Legend says that when the ash trees die, so will we. Little wonder therefore that when the ash dieback disease struck in Denmark, it caused deep fear about how much we have destabilised our life support systems on earth.

walkingwithpoets.wordpress.com/2013/07/11/ash-the-tree-of-life/

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a YouGov poll conducted for the Woodland Trust suggests.

Only 17 per cent recognised an ash leaf, despite the high profile of Chalara ash dieback, which experts have warned could be as devastating as Dutch elm disease. And 57 per cent could not identify an oak. Fewer than two-fifths (39 per cent) of young people could identify an oak and only one in 10 identified an ash. Older people did better: more than two-thirds (68 per cent) of over-55s identified an oak and almost a quarter (23 per cent) recognised an ash.

http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/nature/save-the-ash-tree-half-of-us-cant-even-recognise-an-oak-8704037.html

 

Dutch elm disease is a tragic thing to watch, but we shouldn’t be too gloomy. Woody vegetation responds, adapts, regroups. What emerges in its recovery stage may not be the same as before, but it will always be a vital, dynamic, arboreal community.

The fungus, now known as Chalara fraxinea, is biologically mysterious, an entirely new organism of uncertain origins. It probably evolved in eastern Asia, where it appears to be harmless to native ash species. Its ancestor is a benign and widespread leaf fungus called Hymeno­scyphus albidus, native even in the UK. But at some recent date, this threw up a mutant, Hymenoscyphus pseudoalbidus, with slight genetic differences but a terrible virulence.

Natural resistance is likely to be the best hope for the survival of a core population of ashes in the UK. Isolated from the continent for nearly 8,000 years, our trees may be more genetically diverse than those in Poland.

For their part, ordinary rural people were mystified by the need for plantations, having lived for thousands of years with woods that renewed themselves spontaneously and indefinitely by seeding, or by regrowth from cut coppice stools and pollards. In place of this system of natural regeneration came the notion of trees as artefacts, biddable machines for the production of timber, programmed at every stage of their lives from planting to cutting.

The fundamental grammar of our relationship with them had been changed. Previously, “growing” had been an intransitive verb in the language of woods. Trees grew, and we, in a kind of subordinate clause, took things from them. In the forest-speak of the Enlightenment, “growing” became a transitive verb. We were the subject and trees the object. We were the cause of their existence in particular places on the earth.

Now, in the extremities of ash dieback, we can see that decades of well-intentioned planting have been not only often unnecessary, but, quite possibly, dangerous. Runtish saplings, often mislabelled and of unknown provenance, are shoved into the ground, regardless of whether they might be vectors for disease, or whether the soil is right and the site appropriate.

The existence of a large population of indigenous ashes is our best safeguard for the future and makes rather baffling the Forestry Commission’s experiment, initiated early in May, of planting out trial plots with 150,000 saplings of “15 different varieties”. The intention is to discover whether a few may be resistant and eventually propagate from them. But as 80 million ashes from probably ten times that number of genotypes are already engaged in just such an experiment across Britain, it is hard to see this as much more than a PR exercise – one that fits tidily in to our long, hubristic belief that the salvation of trees lies with us and our superior arboreal intelligence only.

http://www.newstatesman.com/sci-tech/2013/06/our-ash-trees-are-dying-dont-despair-catastrophes-are-natural-events-lives-trees

See also: http://worldwidewood.wordpress.com/2013/06/17/natural-ash-nursery-cleared-and-ready-for-the-deer-fence/

Landowners have accused the Government of ignoring scientists’ efforts to develop a cure for ash dieback and instead relying on cheaper ‘management’ of the disease.

Sir Richard Storey, who owns 300 acres of mature ash trees on his Settrington Estate in Yorkshire, pointed out that Britain has far more ash trees than Continental Europe as it is more difficult to grow other species like beech and oak in the UK because of grey squirrels.

Harriet Tupper, Chairwoman of the International Dendrology Society, accused the Government agency in charge of tackling the disease, the Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA) of rejecting projects working on cures and antidotes.

“It is pessimistic not to try to find a cure/antidote. Over the centuries, scientists have discovered cures for many diseases, of humans, animals and plants. There is no reason why this cannot also happen for Chalara fraxinea. No antidote was found in Poland or Denmark, but of the trees in those countries, ash represented only a tiny fraction unlike the situation in the UK.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthnews/9948411/Government-ash-dieback-management-plan-criticised-for-failing-to-stop-disease.html

  • Developing resistance to the disease in the native ash tree population
  • Encouraging landowner, citizen and industry engagement in surveillance, monitoring and action in tackling the problem

Defra said it is planting 250,000 ash saplings in the east and south east so Defra scientists and the Forestry Commission and local landowners can monitor the trees for signs of Chalara, paying particular attention to any signs of resistance.

http://www.trees.org.uk/aa/news/Defra-admits-impossible-to-eradicate-ash-dieback-148.html

Comment: It is crazy to spend all the money planting out nursery reared seedlings, when natural woodlands can do a much better job themselves for free, with woodland saplings benefiting from their ancient mycorrhizal support systems. See: http://worldwidewood.wordpress.com/2013/04/25/ashes-from-ashes-making-a-one-acre-natural-nursary/ (JW)

A group including the Confederation of Forest Industries, the Woodland Trust and the Ramblers Association urged ministers not to scrap the Forestry Commission, which manages publicly owned forests in England and Scotland.

In a letter to The Daily Telegraph today, the group warned against any plans to merge “the Forestry Commission with Natural England or the Environment Agency”.

They said: “A merger would distract front-line staff at a time of threat from tree pests and diseases, and it would threaten, over time, the professional expertise built up in the Forestry Commission.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/environment/9967598/Scrapping-forestry-quango-leaves-trees-at-greater-risk-of-ash-dieback-type-diseases.html

In a normal year, the service receives a combined total of 750 enquires. But in autumn 2012, the UK saw multiple cases of chalara, a serious disease of ash trees which is caused by the fungus Chalara fraxinea.

Since then, THDAS has received over 4000 enquiries from England and Wales alone (as well as approximately 200 from Scotland), a workload ten times higher than normal.

That massively increased workload comes as the service struggles with budget cuts introduced in the years leading up to the 2010 election.

http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2013/02/biosecurity-agency-cut-labour-experiences-1000-cent-increase-workload

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