A Queen Mary scientist will embark on a new project to decode the ash tree’s entire genetic sequence in the hope of stopping Britain’s trees from being completely devastated by the Chalara ash dieback fungal disease.

Project leader, Dr Richard Buggs from Queen Mary’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, said: ‘Sequencing the ash genome is a foundational step towards discovering the genetic basis of resistance to ash dieback: the future of ash trees in Britain may depend on this. At Queen Mary, University of London we will build on our experience of sequencing the birch genome to optimise this ash genome project.’

A small percentage of ash trees in Denmark are showing some resistance to the fungus. By decoding the tree’s genetic sequence, scientists will take a crucial first step towards identifying the genes that confer this resistance.

The researchers expect to have a first draft of the tree’s entire genetic sequence by August 2013. Once sequencing is complete, they plan to make it publicly available for use by other researchers.


Some scientists say the fungus now ravaging trees across Europe is the same as a native species from Japan.

However, the Asian version of the fungus seems to cause no harm to the local Manchurian ash trees there.

Researchers speaking to the Radio 4 programme The Tree Scientists described the misidentification of the fungus.

Joan Webber, principal pathologist at the Forestry Commission, told the programme: “Scientists working together in Japan and Germany have been looking at a fungus associated with native ash trees in Japan. And what they’ve found is that this fungus appears to be the same one causing ash dieback in Europe and now in Britain.”

“Currently when it infects a nursery for instance, it kills all of the saplings, by killing its host it ultimately leads to its own demise and itself dies out. A successful fungus co-exists with its host tree, so they will both survive.”