I am particularly excited that the Real Life Science Studio in the John Hope Gateway will be hosting the Virtual Landscape Theatre for one week from 8th August. This interactive exhibit allows an audience to decide what actions should be taken to reduce the impact of ash dieback and to explore the implications of these choices. Intrigued? Come and find out more in August!

Diseases are a real threat to our trees and it is likely we will loose a high proportion of our ash trees. Yet, over the course of this project I started to feel more positive about the future of Scottish woodlands. It would be easy to listen to the mass media and get very depressed about the state of our forests and trees. But woodlands are dynamic and have always changed; over such long periods of time we humans find it difficult to comprehend.

We need to build resilience in the woodlands of Scotland to ensure their longevity. By this I mean managing woodlands in a way that creates diversity in the species present, diversity in the age of the trees and diversity in structure. If we do this it may be possible to maintain the ever-changing, unique woodlands of Scotland.

http://stories.rbge.org.uk/archives/2051

“One of the things the Forestry Commission is doing is setting up an area a network of ash plantations where they will be trialling different types of ash genes to see which ones are going to be more resistant. And, what they do know from the work they’ve done in Europe, is that this resistancy is hereditary. So it does seem to give a reasonable clue that it should be possible to encourage natural resistance varieties within native population of ash.”

Mr Roughton said: “When we got the request from the Forestry Commission that they were looking for trial areas we responded immediately to offer part of this field because we see it as such an important opportunity to kick-start the ash fight-back.

“From our point of view it’s a great site because we know there’s lots of ash dieback there and that’s the best testing ground for any young ash.”

http://www.eadt.co.uk/news/suffolk_pioneering_attempt_to_find_ash_dieback_resistant_trees_1_1967912

Oliver Rackham was recently bemoaning the UK’s approach to woodland expansion being so dominated by tree planting, rather than natural regeneration. Not only are the resulting plantations artificial, but the whole process has encouraged the seedling trade across borders that is being blamed for ash dieback disease’s introduction to Britain.

One of the main reasons new woods are planted rather than regrown naturally is because we have such unnaturally high levels of herbivores. Young trees can only get away if they’re grown behind fences to protect them from teeth and the high costs of fencing and our current system of forestry grants has led to an urgency to get trees established in order to be able to claim grants quickly and recoup the outlay on fences.

So, is it time to think about returning some of our native carnivores, to keep the bunnies and deer under control, and reassert a bit of natural balance in our shattered and fragile ecosystems?

http://cybercrofter.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/is-it-time-to-bring-back-bears.html

Ash germinates and grows as readily and quickly as any common or garden weed. But evidently it made business sense to take native ash seeds or seedlings overseas to be raised in commercial nurseries and to be brought back into the country as saplings.And it turns out we in the Woodland Trust were collaborating in this return of the native trees without realising it. With hindsight it is obvious we should have checked to see where every one of the thousands of trees we plant every year was coming from

Forty years ago the woodlands were recovering from the effects of Dutch elm disease, which brought down almost every English elm tree. Ash trees, 90% of which have been destroyed in Denmark, are doing only a little better. But if 10% are immune to this fungus, resistant strains can survive and in due course replace the many others that die.

Great stands of ash trees will be lost today, but they can grow back tomorrow. Anyone who plants trees knows they are really creating something for the future, not the present. Working to save ancient forests from destruction, whether from an invasive fungus or insensitive planning, is very much part of the Woodland Trust’s activities, but so too is planting for generations to come.

I only have an honorary position with the Woodland Trust, and I won’t call for my own resignation. In fact, in this time of crisis for our woods everyone connected with the trust or who has any interest in woods and woodlands should redouble their efforts on behalf of our trees. In the long run, our trees will long outlive us – touch wood.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/nov/25/ash-dieback-clive-anderson-woodland-trust

For decades and centuries – but particularly since the first world war and the formation of the Forestry Commission – ash woodland and individuals have been erased from the landscape, largely by modern forestry and agriculture, taking with them the associated culture and history, flora and fauna and much more. The loss of this welter of evidence is what our great woodland landscape historian, Dr Oliver Rackham, refers to when he talks of loss of meaning from the countryside. Such evidence often usually lost for good.

Of the diseased sites recently reported, 87 stands – nearly half the total – are either nursery sites or new plantings, so this time around, it seems that the finger of blame can be pointed more at conservationists and the horticultural trade than the forester.

I suspect that the blame lies firmly on the shoulders of conservation organisations and hobby foresters, planting new woods for amenity and environmental purposes. More often than not, trees are imported from the continent in generic broadleaved mixes, and planted as random, ill-thought-out patches across the countryside. Such plantings take no account of local landscape, or the natural composition of woodland in their locale, or indeed the likelihood of future colonisation by wild plants and animals. Such plantings are, in the words of one conservation chum, “mindless”, and merely results in “more dull woodland” (the words of another).

Such creation should aim to link and expand existing ancient semi-natural woodland blocks to maximise colonisation by wildlife and to facilitate sustainable management (bringing life-giving light into woodland that is so important to a wide diversity of woodland flowers, butterflies and much else). And above all, wherever possible, the jays and squirrels, and gravity and wind should be allowed to do the planting through natural regeneration. New woodlands would have so much more meaning than the lowest common denominator rubbish being planted at the present time.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/gardening-blog/2012/nov/23/ash-dieback-tree-planting

1. There is always a tremendous hurry and lack of adequate cash about grant aided planting which means trees are often imported

2. Inappropriate tree species are routinely introduced.

3. The groups of trees which are planted do not constitute woods. In particular, no-one bothers to establish an understory, which means they have less value for biodiversity than they should do. Demand for woodland bulbs is amazingly small and their purchase is never covered by woodland planting grants, for example.

4. This issue is compounded by planting densities being too high, which blocks out any light reaching the plants on the ground.

5. We sometimes establish these plantations, with limited ecological value, where more interesting habitat previously existed.

http://blog.habitataid.co.uk/when-tree-planting-sucks/

First of all, it is very important not to plant huge stands of one species.  Yes, we planted a lot of ash (and also have a lot of ash regenerating naturally around the edge of Betty’s Wood), but we planted a whole range of species.  This means Betty’s Wood will be resilient, and should we lose the ash trees it will not be a disaster (except for species that are dependent only upon ash).  Second, it is important not to go round destroying ALL ash trees in the vicinity of an infected one – a few of those trees will show an innate level of resistance.  In countries affected by Chalara for a number of years, some trees have survived.  We need to look at the diversity of the trees, young and old, and work out why they are surviving, and preserve those genetically resistant to the fungus.  We cannot do this if we kill all the ash trees.  Third, we need to stop cutting back the expertise we have in plant pathology, mycology, arboriculture and tree disease research – cuts will not solve this problem, nor will contracting out to the private sector.

http://www.forestcomms.org/profiles/blogs/chalara-dieback-and-alvecote-wood-our-perspective