What is Ash Dieback?
First confirmed in Britain in 2012, Ash Dieback, previously known as Chalara, is a disease of ash trees caused by a fungus called hymenoscyphus fraxineus.
Ash trees across much of England now have the symptoms of ash dieback and it is expected that the majority of ash trees will subsequently die from or be significantly affected by the disease in the coming years. The key symptom to look for is change in percentage cover of leaves, see this visual guide to help with identifying ash dieback. There is currently no known efficient prevention or curative treatment.
What’s the situation in Plymouth?
Here in Plymouth, we have around 65,000 ash trees that make up between 5-10 per cent of all the trees in the city.
Sadly, during a recent preliminary investigation, we assessed 500 ash trees and found 57% were showing signs of the disease. This is likely to increase in the coming months and years.
What does this mean?
It means that over the next few years, we’re going to have to remove ash trees that have the disease and are in high priority areas e.g. near to people or infrastructure. We will start felling the worst affected trees this year. In safe areas like woodlands, we will leave the trees and let nature take its course.
We are increasing our monitoring this year so we can better understand the scale of the issue and the progress of the disease and we will adapt our approach to dealing with affected trees accordingly.
Is this problem only in Plymouth?
No, it’s a nationwide problem.
What are the Council doing?
We are an active member of the Devon Ash Dieback Resilience Forum, which was established in July 2016. We are helping to take actions identified in the Devon Ash Dieback Action Plan, which was produced for Natural Devon to stimulate action. A one page summary of key facts, impacts and actions is provided.
The Devon Ash Dieback Resilience Forum is working collaboratively to raise awareness, provide advice, manage the risks posed by the disease and spearhead measures to mitigate its environmental consequences. The Forum has published freely available Guidance Notes, and the full set is available on the Devon Local Nature Partnership website.
In Plymouth specifically, we continue to work closely with our Plan for Trees partners, working in partnership so we can tackle ash dieback in a co-ordinated approach, whilst looking to make efficiencies by sharing information, ideas and resources.
What if I have a tree that has Ash Dieback on my property/land?
Landowners with trees adjacent to the public highway are being encouraged to take urgent action to assess and ultimately fell their infected ash trees where necessary. More information can be found by clicking here.
Will you be planting any new ash trees in Plymouth?
Not at the moment. The risk of sampling contracting the disease is too great. But we do hope to replace them with other native species wherever possible. Our work to improve Plymouth’s trees is ongoing and we have developed a Plan for Trees and accompanying Delivery Program which is a partnership approach, setting out four principles to Promote, Protect, Care and Enhance the trees across the city. Work to Enhance Plymouth’s urban forest is underway with 200 street trees planned to be planted across the city this year, as well as 800 native woodland trees planted at Poole Farm in November.