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Ash tree disease found in six newly-planted sites in Wales

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21 NOVEMBER 2012NEWS RELEASE No: 15749

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Five newly-planted sites in Welsh Government woodlands have been confirmed with Chalara dieback of ash.

Forestry Commission Wales said the disease had been identified at five sites in the Wentwood and Wye Valley areas following laboratory analysis of samples taken from the young ash trees.

All the young trees on these sites have been lifted and destroyed as a precautionary measure to tackle the serious disease.

The disease was also confirmed in North Wales, at a newly-planted site at Glynllifon College, in Gwynedd. The dieback was spotted by an employee and samples sent for laboratory analysis confirmed the presence of Chalara.

Meanwhile, a survey of other sites recently planted with ash from known infected nurseries is continuing.

It follows the discovery of the disease earlier this month in a small, newly-planted woodland in Carmarthenshire.

Environment Minister John Griffiths said, “The Welsh Government is taking the threat of this disease very seriously and officials are working closely with our partners in the Forestry Commission (FC), Defra, the Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA) and the devolved administrations in Scotland and Northern Ireland on a UK-wide response to the threat it poses.

“Tree diseases do not respect country boundaries and we need to provide a consistent approach to this threat in order to meet the demands of stakeholders and the public and to ensure that our response is co-ordinated and based on the most up to date scientific evidence.”

FC Wales staff and other stakeholders have carried out an unprecedented rapid survey of the whole of Wales to check the condition of the country’s ash trees.

FC Wales officials also attended a tree health summit in London to assist in the development of an action plan to manage the disease in the UK.

The key objectives of the plan include:

• Reduce the rate of spread of the disease

• Develop resistance to the disease in the native UK ash tree population

• Encourage public, landowner and industry engagement and action in tackling the problem, and

• build resilience in the UK woodland associated industries.

Over the coming weeks, the UK Government will work with scientific experts and other interested groups to develop and implement the measures in the plan, and to set a longer term approach to tackling Chalara.

The UK Government has already imposed a ban on imports and movements of ash plants and seeds into and within Great Britain.

Mr Griffiths said, “I believe the action we have taken to date is the proportionate response at this stage, although this is a rapidly developing situation and I therefore intend to keep the position under review in order to respond quickly to any new information that might require us to adopt a different approach.”

Chalara poses no risk to human or animal health. There is no need to restrict public access to woodlands either, but people are asked to behave responsibly and to be aware that the main source of spread is from the transport of infected ash plant parts, in particular the shoots and leaves from mature ash trees and the whole tree in the case of infected young ash transplants.

When visiting the countryside, people are asked not to move ash trees and leaves and take steps to remove the mud from their boots, clothes, bicycles, baby buggies, dogs, vehicles and other items.

Further information, including a pictorial symptoms guide and videos showing pictures of the symptoms of Chalara dieback of ash, is available on the Forestry Commission’s website at www.forestry.gov.uk/chalara.  The UK action plan can be read on the Defra website.

NOTES TO EDITOR

1. There are 15,348 hectares of ash in Wales which represents 5% of the 304,000 hectares of all woodlands in the country. The species is important for its timber, firewood, wildlife, biodiversity and landscape benefits.

2. Common ash (Fraxinus excelsior) is a deciduous species native to much of Europe, including the British Isles. After oak and birch, it is the third most common native broadleaf tree in Great Britain. It is important for its timber, firewood, wildlife, bio-diversity and landscape benefits.

3. Chalara dieback of ash is a serious disease of ash trees caused by a fungus called Chalara fraxinea. The disease was recorded for the first time in Britain earlier this year at a car park in Leicestershire and subsequently at several sites in the south-east of England and Scotland.

4. Further information, including a “pest alert” factsheet showing pictures of the symptoms of Chalara dieback of ash and a map showing all locations with confirmed cases of Chalara, is available on the Forestry Commission’s website at www.forestry.gov.uk/ashdieback

5. Media enquiries to Forestry Commission Wales press officer Clive Davies on 0300 068 0061, mobile 07788 190922, email clive.davies@forestry.gsi.gov.uk

e-mail: richard.siddons@forestry.gsi.gov.uk