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UK homeowners have role to play in tackling disease killing millions of trees, new guidance says

The Tree Council

June 18, 2020

ash dieback guidance homeowners

Ash dieback disease is likely to infect up to 80% of UK ash trees


New guidance published by The Tree Council, Defra and the Forestry Commission will help homeowners and land managers deal with the impact of ash dieback disease on trees on their land. The tree disease causes infected trees to decline, and in some cases die, potentially posing health and safety risks depending on their location.

Anyone with a tree on their land has a legal responsibility to ensure that risk posed by the tree is kept within appropriate limits, particularly if they are next to a busy road, public pathway or community grounds. The new guidance will help homeowners and land managers who have ash trees on their land understand their options for managing affected ash trees, while at the same time minimising the ecological impact caused by the highly damaging tree disease.

The guidance provides simple steps to:

  • help identify ash trees on private land
  • assess their condition on a simple scale of 1 – 4
  • consider tree management options if ash dieback disease is suspected

Sara Lom, CEO, The Tree Council, said: “Sara Lom, CEO, The Tree Council, said: “Ash trees are a treasured presence in our urban and rural landscapes, including amongst our hedgerows. But sadly, due to ash dieback disease, some may now present a risk. It is vital that people who own gardens or manage land containing ash trees not only understand their responsibilities, but also how they can help give ash the best chance of survival for the future. This guidance helps them assess the safety risks and encourages owners to keep the trees in the landscape when it is safe to do so, where they can continue to provide ecological benefits.”

Nicola Spence, Defra’s Chief Plant Health Officer, said: “This year we are celebrating the International Year of Plant Health, an opportunity to recognise the importance of healthy plants and the role we can all play to safeguard our natural environment. So I urge those who have ash trees in their gardens or on their land to familiarise themselves with the Tree Council’s guidance on dealing with the impact of ash dieback.

“Ash dieback is a damaging disease to our native ash trees as well as our timber industry which is why since 2012 the Government has invested more than £6m into ash dieback research and £4.5m to strengthen biosecurity at the border.”

Ash is the third commonest broadleaved tree species in Britain. It provides valuable habitats for over 1,000 wildlife species, including mammals, birds, invertebrates, plants and lichens. This makes the small proportion of ash trees that are expected to be tolerant to the disease, crucial to the future of ash trees in the UK.

The guidance describes how tree owners can help the next generation of ash trees survive, through retaining trees where it is safe to do so. If felling is necessary, then trunks/branches can be left as deadwood to continue offering benefits as a wildlife habitat.

Notes for editors

The guidance lives here: https://treecouncil.org.uk/science-and-research/ash-dieback/public-guidance/

This guidance was produced by The Tree Council, with funding from Defra and support from the Forestry Commission. The guidance contains information and resources from a range of organisations who have been managing the impact of ash dieback disease on trees on their land and would not have been possible without their generous permission. The document provides advice and guidance only and the legal responsibility for tree management and any resulting risk or damage remains with the landowner.

Ash dieback disease was first officially recorded in the UK in 2012 and has spread rapidly, with only a small fraction of trees proving resistant. Some research carried out in France and published in April 2020, suggests that isolated ash trees, such as those growing in hedges or other open areas, may be less affected by ash dieback than those in woodlands, but it is too soon to say whether similar patterns may be observed in the UK.

Since the arrival of ash dieback, The Tree Council has led research into the early responses and coping strategies of public landowners to this new disease. The Tree Council has also produced an Action Plan Toolkit for local authorities looking to address ash dieback.

The Tree Council is a charity and umbrella body bringing everyone together with a shared mission to care for trees and our planet’s future. We inspire and empower organisations, government, communities and individuals with the knowledge and tools to create positive, lasting change at a national and local level. More details can be found at https://treecouncil.org.uk/science-and-research/ash-dieback/

For press enquiries for The Tree Council, contact Holly Chetan-Welsh at holly.chetan-welsh@treecouncil.org.uk


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