Aberdeen continues fight against Dutch elm disease

"Several dozen" of Aberdeen's elms will need to be felled this year due to Dutch elm disease (DED), the city council has said.

Image: Bill Harrison (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Image: Bill Harrison (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Aberdeen City Council’s arboricultural service is two years into a programme of removing diseased elms, and so far has felled "about 70" trees in high-risk areas.

But the council estimates there are still about 400 diseased or dying trees beside roads and in parks, gardens and play areas. Removing those in streets will require some road closures.

Its operational delivery convener Councillor John Wheeler said: "We do not want to cut down trees, especially if they’re large mature specimens, but unfortunately we must as there is no cure for Dutch elm disease."

He added: "We need to do what we can to help prevent the spread of the disease, which means cutting down some trees which may look healthy but have the first signs, and it’s better to remove them before the condition can migrate and devastate the elms in an entire community."

The news is a reminder that the tree epidemic, which devastated England's native elm population in the 1970's, is still playing itself out further north.

Forest Research says the pathogen responsible, Ophiostoma novo-ulmi, has a lower optimum temperature for growth than O. ulmi, responsible for the original DED outbreak in the 1920s.

The fungus is spread by elm bark beetles and it infects all of Britain’s elm species, including the wych elm (Ulmus glabra), more prevalent in northern Britain, though progress through this species has been slower than in the English elm (U. procera).

Trees normally die within three to five years of first sign, but may die within a season.


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