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.


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.


The crisis in Britain’s ash forests came as a shock to public and politicians. But is it a vision of the future for our woodlands? Stressed by climate change and vulnerable to pests and diseases crossing the English Channel the prospects seem grim.

In a special edition of Costing the Earth Tom Heap asks what our forests will look like in the future. Is there anything we can do to stem the flow of disease, can our native trees be made more resilient or should we consider planting a wider range of trees? Tom visits Lithuania where ash dieback disease first came to attention in Europe to find out how they’ve come to terms with new threats to their forests and meets the experts and enthusiasts with a fresh approach to protecting our forests.


The government was at pains to underline the seriousness of the disease. “We will inevitably see a long term decline of the native ash. We must change the structure of our forests and introduce new species”, said Defra chief plant health officer Martin Ward.


A Defra spokeswoman told the Guardian: “The discovery of the disease in these counties does not mean the disease is spreading rapidly. It is likely that the disease has been present in these areas for a number of years, originally caused by spores blown in from mainland Europe.

Ward added: “If we had carried out the kind of research we would like to have done when the disease turned up in Europe it’s possible we could’ve come up with a solution. But that’s easy to say in hindsight.”



The arrival in the UK of the deadly ash dieback has given these words a hollow ring; Nick is already planning for a future without ash. “We’re going to have to turn from being an ash wood to a mixed wood,” he says.

“This winter I’m going to start transplanting hazel and oak among the existing trees. Everyone is so gloomy about the prospects for ash that we have to assume the worst. It will be next summer until we can tell whether our trees are affected.”

Should the ash survive, Nick aims to coppice the trees every seven years – the wood is used to make tool handles, furniture, walking sticks, tent pegs and wheel rims. “I like the simplicity of the process of growing and coppicing trees. It’s like riding a bike rather than driving a car,” says Nick, who works in the wood during winter and in the neighbouring allotment in summer.


If a disease like ash dieback affects a high proportion of the ash trees in a wild wood, it is unlikely that a casual observer would even notice. The rate at which resistant varieties of ash, or other species such as sycamore and cherry, would replace them would be much faster than the ten years or so that the disease is thought to take to kill a tree (in fact, ash dieback is not known to kill mature trees, so any sort of dramatic effect is very unlikely indeed).

The effect on ground flora and woodland animals is also likely to be negligible. Few species are dependent on ash for anything – mainly just other fungal diseases. If the proportion of ash in woodlands was to fall, the trees that would benefit, such as oak, may well have even higher ecological value (many hundreds of species are known to live on oaks).

Over the last 50 years the amount of ash, Fraxinus excelsior, in England and lowland parts of Wales and Scotland has increased greatly as a result of lower grazing pressure and the decline of elms.

Botanical Society of the British Isles – http://www.bsbi.org.uk/ash_dieback.html

As a result of chalara, Britain would have to change the structure of its forests, he added, “to use well developed silvicultural practice to introduce new species and different forest structures, to replace those ash trees that are in decline.”

This found chalara present in six more counties: Sussex, Berkshire, Bedfordshire, Lincolnshire, Yorkshire. The disease has now been confirmed in 115 sites: 15 nurseries, 39 planting sites and 61 locations in the wider environment (forests and woodlands).