Government launches strategy to "ensure ash remains in the landscape"

A new Ash Research Strategy will consolidate all evidence on ash trees and the threats to them, and identify future research needs to protect the species and restore it to the British landscape.

Image: Future Trees Trust
Image: Future Trees Trust

The threats identified include not only ash dieback disease, already a nationwide problem, but also the pest emerald ash borer, which has devastated North America's ash trees.

Biosecurity minister Lord Gardiner lauched the strategy at Royal Botanic Gardens Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank today (6 June) as he helped plant ash trees tolerant to ash dieback in the UK’s first "ash tree archive".

Lord Gardiner said: "Defra is already committed to funding several key research activities. Just one innovative example is the ongoing screening by Forest Research and Future Trees Trust for ash trees tolerant to ash dieback.

"In early 2020 the Trust will be planting an archive of tolerant trees which will be a key resource for a future breeding programme."

Defra chief plant health officer Nicola Spence said: "Since ash dieback was identified in 2012, we have invested more than £6m in ash dieback research and £4.5m to strengthen border security. We currently have some of the strongest import controls in Europe.

"But we want to go even further to protect our ash trees which is why we have developed the ash research strategy, a new document which will help us determine how to ensure ash trees remain in our landscape for future generations to enjoy."

Scions collected from the trees that appear to be showing signs of tolerance to ash dieback have been grafted onto healthy rootstock and are currently growing in nurseries with the anticipation of being planted in Hampshire in 2020.

The Ash Research Strategy has been developed in partnership with key stakeholders, including academics,  government scientists and researchers, research councils, the forestry, horticultural and landscape sectors, landowner representative bodies and environmental organisations.

Its six policy objectives are:

  • Continuous review of pests and diseases which pose a threat to ash, in particular ADB and EAB;
  • Mitigate the risk of further pest and disease outbreaks on ash;
  • Ensure preparedness and an optimal response to an EAB incursion;
  • Reduce the impact of ADB on ash-associated biodiversity and public health and safety;
  • Restore ecosystem services, by repopulating the treescape with alternative species to ash;
  • Assist the long-term survival of native ash in the landscape.

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