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Suffolk: Fears ash dieback will spread through county next spring

PUBLISHED: 10:04 27 November 2012

An ash tree with Chalara dieback

An ash tree with Chalara dieback

Archant

EXPERTS are predicting the “considerable spread” of ash dieback disease in Suffolk next year, despite an apparent slowing down in the number of reported infections.

Almost two weeks ago the EADT reported claims that Suffolk was on the “front line” against the deadly Chalara dieback fungus, with nearly a quarter of the UK’s confirmed cases coming from the county’s woodlands and nurseries.

At that time the number of infections logged by the Forestry Commission had grown from single figures to 42 in a week.

But, according to the latest statistics recorded by the commission, that figure has only increased to 48 cases in the last 12 days.

Suffolk Wildlife Trust chief executive Julian Roughton said the number of confirmed cases was only slowing due to difficulties in diagnosing the condition in largely leafless trees.

He said: “On a mature tree, you can not really tell if it has the disease now or not. With the younger trees, the majority of cases have already been picked up.

“So, in a sense, the disease will be dormant now for the winter period.”

Mr Roughton added: “But given the spread of the disease in the wider landscape, we would expect it to spread considerably from the current sites from next year. So it will probably start spreading from July onwards when the spores are released.”

Four of six ancient woodlands belonging to the wildlife trust have already had confirmation of the disease, while results for Bradfield Woods, near Bury St Edmunds, have not yet been returned.

Mr Roughton said “realistically” there is little that can be done to stop Chalara dieback.

He added: “I think the common consensus now is that this is a disease in the wider landscape that is spread by spores from a fungus and therefore, other than monitor the spread of the disease, there is not really a lot that can be done.

“I think we have to be realistic. We can try to minimise the spread, for instance preventing the spread of ash trees around the country unless they are from certified sources; advising people not to bring leaf litter on their boots from wood to wood.

“But it would seem difficult to see how the disease would not continue to spread, given all the evidence and experience that has been elsewhere in Europe.”

According to the Forestry Commission there are now 222 confirmed infections in the UK – 121 in established woodland, 84 in recently planted sites and 17 in nursery sites.

All of Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s sites remain open.

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