b Politics & Regulation


There is a small hope that unique British races of the species—isolated from continental Europe 8,500 years ago—may prove unusually resistant to the blight.

During the 19th century, as global trade increased exponentially, so did the incidence of tree blights. In the early 20th century, after rich countries instituted biosecurity regimes, the growth rates slowed, and in America, at least until recently, remained fairly linear. But in Europe, around 1960, the infection rate picked up, very likely due to the trade-boosting effect of economic integration. This not only spread diseases around the continent itself. It also made the law-abiding countries of northern Europe, such as Britain, susceptible to the sloppier customs regimes of the continent’s southern fringe.

http://www.economist.com/news/britain/21580459-arboreal-confirmation-britain-european-country-european-problems-unquiet-woods?fsrc=rss|btn

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/

The South East has been declared a “low priority” area – authorities say that because the disease is already widespread, it is not cost effective to tackle it.

Dr Alun Griffiths, microbiologist and chairman of the Kent Men of the Trees conservation charity, said the county needed better protection.

“I’ve been studying diseases around the world all my professional life,” he said.

“I’ve always thought that if you have a focus, an area where disease is being spread rapidly, that would be the place where you’d put most of your effort.

The government is planting thousands of young ash trees in the region as part of a research trial, including at the Hucking Estate near Maidstone.

Scientists hope 1% of them may survive and develop resistance in a decade’s time.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-kent-22510873

 

  • 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)

Landowners in England will be paid to remove young ash trees and replace them with other species to help slow the spread of the disease killing them, the environment secretary said on Tuesday.

Paterson said: “We know we can’t stop Chalara fraxinea infecting our ash trees, so we have to throw our resources into managing it and slowing the spread. A key part of that strategy will be identifying those trees which have a natural resistance to the disease so that we can restock our woodlands in the future.”

The amount the government will spend on replacing young trees will depend on demand, said a spokeswoman. Landowners will be paid to remove recently planted ash from high priority areas – a band running from Cornwall and Devon and then north through Gloucester and up to the Midlands – and replace the trees with other species.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/mar/26/ash-dieback-landowners-restock-woodlands

The government is to plant a quarter of a million ash trees in an attempt to find strains that are resistant to the fungus responsible for ash dieback.

The £1.5m project is part of the long term management plan, unveiled by the Environment Secretary Owen Paterson.

Funding will also be made available to woodland owners to help them remove infected ash saplings.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-21937163

 

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

Next Page »