Chalara spread to Highland woods leads to review of action plan

The rapid spread of ash dieback (Chalara fraxinea) in Scotland this year has reached the West Highlands, within the Forestry Commission's designated "sheltered area".

Morvern - image: Phillip Capper
Morvern - image: Phillip Capper

The disease has been confirmed in woodlands the Morvern peninsula and in Glen Nant, a Site of Special Scientific Interest and National Nature Reserve southeast of Oban.

The "sheltered area", covering most of the Highland and Argyll & Bute council areas as well as the Outer Hebrides and the island of Arran, was established in 2013 as part of the Commission's Chalara Action Plan, in an attempt to delay establishment of the disease in the area's mature woodlands.

Scotland's environment minister Dr Aileen McLeod said: "The sheltered area's comparative remoteness offered some prospect of delaying the arrival of the disease but, regrettably, this now appears not to have been the case.

"I have asked Forestry Commission Scotland to review the Chalara Action Plan, with advice from the Scottish Tree Health Advisory Group, to assess what more can be done to promote adaptive action and to consider the appropriateness of current actions within the sheltered and buffer areas."

Such adaptive actions could include identifying trees with lower disease susceptibility, as well as collecting ash seed to help preserve a wide gene pool for future use, the Forestry Commission has advised.

By the end of last month, 37 infections had been recorded within the buffer area, which lies between the sheltered area and the south and east of the country.

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