Ash dieback research, funding and policy news – 16 September 2015

Virulence of Hymenoscyphus albidus and native and introduced Hymenoscyphus fraxineus on Fraxinus excelsior and Fraxinus pennsylvanica

Ash dieback is caused by Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, a cryptic species of the putatively harmless Hymenoscyphus albidus. Recently, H. fraxineus was found to be native to East Asia. However, the virulence of Asian H. fraxineus strains on Fraxinus excelsior and the virulence of European H. albidus on hosts other than F. excelsior and Fraxinus mandshurica have not yet been assessed. In a wound inoculation study, the virulence of four H. albidus and four European and Japanese H. fraxineus strains was assessed on F. excelsior and Fraxinus pennsylvanica in a climate chamber. Lesion lengths were measured after approximately three and a half months. No lesions were observed on the negative control or on trees inoculated with H. albidus. In contrast, inoculation with H. fraxineus induced typical symptoms of ash dieback on both tree species. Japanese H. fraxineus strains induced significantly longer lesions compared to European strains. Fraxinus excelsior was highly susceptible and developed lesions averaging lengths of 1·7 and 8·4 cm for European and Japanese strains, respectively. Fraxinus pennsylvanica was less susceptible and developed average lesion lengths of 1·6 and 4·8 cm for European and Japanese strains, respectively. Most strains were successfully reisolated from necrotic lesions or inocula, fulfilling Koch’s postulates. The data show that additional introductions of H. fraxineus strains from the native range to Europe could pose a threat to the conservation of F. excelsior. In addition, introduction of H. fraxineus to North America could potentially have a negative effect on the indigenous F. pennsylvanica.


Newly confirmed cases of deadly tree disease in Cumbria

An international forestry expert has warned that more than half a million ash trees in Cumbria – some dating back to the Tudors – are directly threatened after new cases of ‘Chalara Ash Dieback Disease’ were confirmed in the Lake District. Professor Ted Wilson, Director of the Penrith-based Silviculture Research International, said reports of the disease in ash trees in Cumbria was the “news we have all been dreading.” The latest information released by the Forestry Commission shows confirmed reports in the Borrowdale area, the Kendal to Windermere corridor, the south-east lakes area, the Eden Valley and near Carlisle and Longtown.


Cutting edge: Lessons from Fraxinus, a crowd-sourced citizen science game in genomics

In 2013, in response to an epidemic of ash dieback disease in England the previous year, we launched a Facebook-based game called Fraxinus to enable non-scientists to contribute to genomics studies of the pathogen that causes the disease and the ash trees that are devastated by it. Over a period of 51 weeks players were able to match computational alignments of genetic sequences in 78% of cases, and to improve them in 15% of cases. We also found that most players were only transiently interested in the game, and that the majority of the work done was performed by a small group of dedicated players. Based on our experiences we have built a linear model for the length of time that contributors are likely to donate to a crowd-sourced citizen science project. This model could serve a guide for the design and implementation of future crowd-sourced citizen science initiatives.


Tree planting army needed to replace millions of ash

The impact of ash dieback on 12 million trees outside of woods could prove disastrous both for wildlife and our cherished landscapes. The Woodland Trust is launching a new initiative encouraging people to plant trees specifically in areas badly affected by the tree disease.


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Ash dieback research, funding and policy news – 29 July 2015

Ash dieback: 100,000 trees destroyed in bid to combat disease

One hundred thousand young ash trees have been destroyed in Northern Ireland in an attempt to combat a potentially devastating disease. They have been removed to stop the spread of ash dieback, a fungal disease that can infect mature trees and saplings. Scientists have warned that if it is not contained it could change the landscape and affect our biodiversity. It has been found on around 100 sites in Northern Ireland. All those sites were planted with imported saplings, some of which had the infection.


Ash dieback (Chalara), free trade, and the technocracy of biosecurity

This is a blog post by Judith Tsouvalis, a research fellow on the University of Nottingham’s Making Science Public team.


Tree Health News

The third edition of Forestry Commission England’s Tree Health News, created to meet the sector’s demand for regular pest and disease updates.


Environmental Agencies urge people to use TreeCheck, a smartphone App to help safeguard tree health on island of Ireland

Environmental Agencies are encouraging walkers, golfers, farmers and anyone outdoors this summer to use TreeCheck, a smartphone web based App to help in safeguarding tree and forest health on the island of Ireland. The Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Tom Hayes said the outbreaks on the island, of Chalara Ash Dieback and Phytophthora ramorum in larch have ‘brought into sharp focus the threat posed by the introduction and spread of serious pests and diseases to our trees and forests’.


Ecologists on fungus vigil

Most people link them to signs of a rotting or ageing tree. But lichens, mosses, fungi and liverworts represent one of Scotland’s ecological wonders, now threatened by disease, deer and alien plant species. The global environmental significance of these colourful and mossy patches on and around old trees, is comparable to country’s seabird population, according to scientists. It is estimated that almost 600 different lichens and fungi grow on ash trees alone. Ecologists are deeply concerned over how they will be affected Chalara fraxinea, or ash dieback disease, that threatens to remove up to 80 million ash trees from the UK’s landscape.


The genome of Fraxinus excelsior

Video presentation from UK PlantSci 2015 by Richard Buggs, Queen Mary University of London.


Observatree – an early warning system for tree health

Video presentation from UK PlantSci 2015 by Kate Hutchinson, Forest Research.


Free ash dieback workshop

09:30-16:00, Thursday 13 August 2015
Near Tiverton, Devon

Do you want to know more about ash dieback? Do you want to help contribute to the management of ash trees where you live?

Join experts from the Living Ash Project for this free workshop to learn about the potential impact of ash dieback on our landscape character. Following presentations in the morning and a free lunch, we will visit an infected site in the afternoon and have the opportunity to record a tree using the ‘Ashtag’ smartphone app.


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Ash dieback research, funding and policy news – 16 June 2015

Guide to forestry grants and funding available in Ireland

The new Forestry Programme will involve a commitment of €482 million to the forestry sector. Under the programme the Afforestation Grant and Premium Scheme is available from the Forest Service of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. Teagasc has produced a guide for farmers on the grant and premium categories (GPCs) are open for applications.


The future of tree health

Ancient mainstays of our woodlands, hedgerows and parklands are at risk from a surge of pests and diseases – but a new research programme is bringing experts together from many fields to find solutions.


People power to help tackle tree disease

Citizen science and new technology are being combined in the fight against tree disease as part of Observatree, a new project launched this spring aiming to help protect the UK’s trees, woods and forests from harmful pests and diseases – existing or new.


It’s Gold at Chelsea for the ‘Beyond Our Borders’ garden

An innovative garden, called ‘Beyond Our Borders’, has been awarded a gold medal at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show. Commissioned by the Animal and Plant Health Agency, the garden highlights one way that global plant pest and disease threats are being monitored by the UK Government.


BBC Radio 4 Farming Today

Ash Dieback is a disease which has been devastating woodlands across the UK for over three years. BBC Look North’s Environment Correspondent Paul Murphy visits one of the nurseries involved in a scheme to source seeds and grow replacement trees as an alternative to Ash.


New ash dieback cases confirmed in Scotland

New cases of the tree disease ash dieback have been found in a “sheltered area” set up to halt its spread to mature woodlands. The large area in the western Highlands was designated in 2013 by the Forestry Commission and has been monitored by experts for the chalara infection, but cases have now been found in three areas. All around Oban, two of the locations where the disease has recently been confirmed are in Morvern while the third is in Glen Nant, a Site of Special Scientific Interest and National Nature Reserve.


Reconstitution Scheme: (Chalara Ash Dieback)

The Reconstitution Scheme supports the reconstitution of ash plantations which have suffered from or are associated with Ash Dieback disease caused by the fungus Hymenoscyphus fraxineus. The objective of this scheme is to:

-Restore forests affected by Hymenoscyphus fraxineus by supporting the removal and destruction of trees and leaf litter affected by the disease.
-Reconstitution of the forest with an alternative species to ash.
-Ensure that all leaf litter is adequately destroyed.


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Ash dieback research, funding and policy news – 6 May 2015

Chalara has spread to more than 1,000 sites, says Defra

Ash dieback findings have passed the 1,000 site mark, just three years after Defra discovered it in a Buckinghamshire nursery.


New app to allow everyone monitor tree health in Ireland

Treecheck, a smartphone app to enlist the public’s help in safeguarding tree and forest health on the island of Ireland, was recently launched by Minister of State Tom Hayes and the Minister for Agriculture in the North Michelle O’Neill.

Minister Hayes said that outbreaks of Chalara Ash Dieback and Phytophthora ramorum in larch on the island have brought into sharp focus the threat posed by the introduction and spread of serious pests and diseases to our trees and forests.


Treating ash seeds with hot water may kill Chalara infection

Immersing ash seeds in 44°C water for 5 hours may eradicate Chalara infection in ash seeds without significantly reducing the viability of the seeds. Forest Research scientists have published the results of this trial in Quarterly Journal of Forestry. Batches of ash fruits were subjected to hot-water treatments at 32, 36, 40 and 44°C for 1, 2 and 5 hours respectively. Further trials will be required to validate this method but hot-water treatment might provide a new management tool, enabling disease-free plants to be raised from ash fruits collected from disease-affected areas.

Shelagh A. McCartan, Joan F. Webber and Richard L. Jinks. (2015) Hot-water treatment as a possible method for eradicating Chalara fraxinea (Hymenoscyphus pseudoalbidus) infection from ash fruits (Fraxinus excelsior L). Quarterly Journal of Forestry  109, 18-23 (available in print only).


Cork company could help eliminate ash dieback

MEP Sean Kelly says that a Cork-based company called Treemetrics now has the technology and expertise to help tackle ash dieback disease using their satellite and online technologies. The Fine Gael MEP says that satellite imagery can identify exactly where dieback is occurring or likely to occur and that knowledge will help eliminate the disease in time, it is hoped.


New multi-evidence annotation of ash tree genome now available

Annotation Version 3 (released 26/02/15).


Countryside Stewardship: Woodland Capital Grants 2015

Countryside Stewardship will help rural businesses improve the countryside environment, and the Woodland Capital Grants in 2015 will prioritise support for activity this year to cover:

  • Creating and maintaining new woodland for biodiversity and water benefits including flooding;
  • Woodland management plans;
  • Tree health

The Forestry Commission is now open for applications for these Woodland capital grants.


Interim report on the results from fungicide efficacy testing for Chalara

Defra has funded a three year research project (2013-2016) to develop strategies to mitigate the spread of ash dieback in the UK.  In October 2013, details of the laboratory and field work being undertaken to test efficacy of currently available fungicides against ash dieback was published on the Defra website.  All 14 products (plus an additional three tested as a result of information from the  manufacturer)  were  tested  in  laboratory  experiments  to  measure  the  effectiveness  of  the fungicides against mycelial growth in broth culture.


Derbyshire man’s bid to protect Britain’s native ash trees

Joe Alsop, from Derbyshire, is a Reserve Manager for Natural England. In 2014 he spent six weeks travelling Europe to study the serious tree disease, ash dieback, as part of a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship. In addition to writing a report on his findings, Joe is using the information gained on his Fellowship to give a series of talks and run workshops,  discussing the best way to manage woodlands prior to and post infection from this devastating disease.


Borders bids to tackle ash tree disease

A tree health officer has been appointed to help the Scottish Borders tackle a serious disease which experts predict will wipe out 95% of ash trees in 10 to 15 years. Steve Morgan, who has worked for the Forestry Commission in a wide range of roles in the past, takes up the new job and will cover southern Scotland from his base in Selkirk. His priority will be tackling ash dieback, which can now be found in every 10km square in the Borders. It is especially prominent in the eastern Borders, where most ash trees can be found.


Oliver Rackham, tree writer, leaves behind big boots to fill

The Guardian pays tribute to botanist, academic and nature writer who wrote books on countryside, woodlands and trees.


Brussels policy seminar on wood pastures

17 November 2015

Some of Europe’s most beautiful landscapes comprise scattered large old trees on pastures grazed by livestock. Often with medieval origins, these wooded pastures provide many cultural, ecological, aesthetic and economic benefits. They are rich in biodiversity and the ancient trees are irreplaceable. As well as the ‘usual’ threats of agricultural intensification or abandonment, they are now threatened with unintended destruction by EU agriculture and agri-environment policies because wood pastures don’t fit comfortably into bureaucratic categories: they are neither open pastures nor woodland but something in between.

The Society of Biology is supporting a seminar in the European Parliament in Brussels on 17th November to discuss the effects of European policy on these treasures of the landscape. For more information or to reserve a place, contact Barbara Knowles, Senior Science Policy Adviser,


Stalking the Hardy Ash

Friday 29 May Start time: 4.00pm from Kentish Town rail & tube station, London – free event (but booking essential) FULLY BOOKED
Saturday 30 May Start time: 10.00am from Kentish Town rail & tube station, London – free event (but booking essential)

150 years ago, poet and novelist Thomas Hardy while working as an architect’s technician was in charge of the excavation of the graveyard in Old St Pancras churchyard, arranging for the removal of gravestones so that work could continue on the London & Midland railway. The gravestones were leant up against an ash tree.  Over time, the tree roots have enmeshed the gravestones, creating an extraordinary feature.

And here begins our journey with a photography walkshop to explore other unusual trees in the vicinity and seek out significant trees that Thomas Hardy himself would have seen. This walkshop will include some amazing discoveries and uncover some revealing facts surrounding our trees.


#tree_or_false  Twitter campaign

The Mayor of London’s 2015 LondonTree Week runs from the 23 – 31 May, as part of which the Museum of Walking (@museumofwalking) will be running our popular Tree or False? walkshop around the ‘Ice Age Tree Trail’ in the gardens that surround the Imperial War Museum in Southwark.

In the month before the Tree of False? walkshop, we are using Twitter to send truths and un-truths about the 34 native tree species on the Ice Age Tree Trail.  Beginning on Monday 20 April, on each day at 08.00 BST we will tweet a myth (or truth) about one of the 34 tree species that have colonised Britian since the Ice Age – using the #tree_or_false  hashtag. We will also include an image pertinent to the myth or truth or of a tree.  We welcome as many people as possible to participate in this campaign.  @museumofwalking #LondonTreeWeek #tree_or_false.


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Research, funding and policy news – 11 February 2015

British woods in crisis as ash disease triples

The number of British woods suffering from ash dieback has almost tripled in two years, new figures reveal, as ministers admit they have no solution to the crisis. Almost 1,000 sites across the UK have now been affected by the disease, which was first detected in 2012. Ministers are now focusing on slowing the spread of the disease and developing varieties of ash tree that are resistant to the fungus. Experts now believe ash die-back, which is known as Chalara, is unstoppable and will ultimately spread across the entire country.


Key developments in plant health

It has been another busy year for people, right across the forestry sector, dealing with pests and diseases. In Forestry Journal’s current features, Dr John Morgan, Head of the Forestry Commission’s Plant Health Service, reviews some of the key developments that took place during 2014.


Alternative tree species suitable for planting in East Yorkshire

The HEYwoods initiative aims to increase woodland cover and to improve the management of existing trees, woods and associated habitats in the City of Hull and the East Riding of Yorkshire. It is managed by a partnership of government agencies, local councils, environmental charities and supporting organisations through a steering

Based on our current understanding of Ash Dieback, these notes have been produced to assist landowners and managers in selecting tree and shrub species for the main HEYwoods areas.  In reality, each site has its own constraints and, therefore, the species selection, as well as the percentage mix, will need to be modified to suit site conditions.


First Report of the Ash Dieback Pathogen Hymenoscyphus fraxineus in Korea

In the past two decades, European ash trees (Fraxinus spp.) have been severely damaged due to ash dieback disease, which is caused by the fungal species Hymenoscyphus fraxineus (Chalara fraxinea in the anamorphic stage). Recent molecular phylogenetic and population genetic studies have suggested that this fungus has been introduced from Asia to Europe. During a fungal survey in Korea, H. fraxineus-like apothecia were collected from fallen leaves, rachises, and petioles of Korean ash and Manchurian ash trees. The morphological and ecological traits of these materials are described with the internal transcribed spacer rDNA sequence comparison of H. fraxineus strains collected from Korea, China and Japan.


Hymenoscyphus fraxineus can directly infect intact current-year shoots of Fraxinus excelsior and artificially exposed leaf scars

Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, the causal agent of ash dieback, was inoculated onto intact, unwounded current-year shoots and leaf scars of 4-year-old, potted Fraxinus excelsior seedlings. Pieces of ash wood colonized by the fungus were used as inoculum. Three of 25 (12%) of the inoculated intact shoots and nine of 25 (36%) of the inoculated leaf scars were infected by H. fraxineus and developed typical symptoms of ash dieback, including necrotic lesions on the shoot surface and wood discoloration as well as shoot and leaf wilting distal to the inoculation site. No symptoms occurred on control seedlings, which had been inoculated in the same way but with sterile wood pieces. Visible necrotic lesions on shoots and wood discoloration were statistically significantly longer in proximal than in distal direction from the inoculation site, a pattern which resembles symptoms after natural infection. The ash dieback pathogen was re-isolated from nine of 12 (75%) of the symptomatic seedlings. These results provide indirect supportive evidence that the fungus infects shoots via leaves and shows that it is able, under experimental conditions using a massive mycelial inoculum, to directly infect intact, unwounded current-year shoots of its main host in Europe.


John Innes Centre scientist awarded British Empire Medal for her work on ash dieback disease

A Norfolk scientist has won recognition in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List for her part in discovering the wild outbreak of a deadly tree disease – and her subsequent work to combat the national epidemic.


Confor’s 2015 conference – Delivering Green Growth

Tuesday 24th March 2015
RICS, 12 Great George Street, London

The full agenda for Confor’s landmark 2015 conference has been published, with a strong line-up of politicians and industry experts lined up to debate how forestry and wood can deliver its full potential. Politicians from across the spectrum will take part in a panel debate – after two policy sessions, one focused on Confor’s election manifesto Delivering Green Growth, and the other on Forest Certification and Assurance.


UK PlantSci 2015

14-15 April
Harper Adams University

Speakers in the Trees forests and environmental change session include Richard Buggs, Queen Mary University of London: The Genome of Fraxinus excelsior (European ash). Delegates are encouraged to submit an abstract to present a short talk or poster at the meeting.


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Research, funding and policy news – 19 December 2014

The Future of Tree Health

Ancient mainstays of our woodlands, hedgerows and parklands are at risk from a surge of pests and diseases – but a new research programme is bringing experts together from many fields to find solutions.


Preventing biodiversity loss due to ash dieback disease

A new study of woodlands across the UK reveals that, as Chalara ash dieback disease progresses, encouraging the growth of other broadleaved trees as alternatives to ash could protect the almost 1000 species of plants and animals which usually use ash trees for food and habitat.


Invertebrate species at risk from ash dieback in the UK

Ash Dieback, a disease of Ash (Fraxinus excelsior) trees caused by the ascomycete, Hymenoscyphus pseudoalbidus, was first noticed in the UK in February 2012 and has since been found through much of the country. Evidence from elsewhere in Europe suggests that most infected Ash trees succumb to the disease and, hence, UK woodlands and landscapes are at risk of large scale changes. A wide range of taxa either depends on Ash or makes significant use of it and is likely to be detrimentally affected if the UK’s Ash trees are seriously depleted. Invertebrate species that use Ash exclusively or are highly associated with the tree were identified from existing literature. We categorised 36 invertebrate species as “obligate” on Ash in the UK and a further 38 as “highly associated”. Hemiptera, Diptera and Lepidoptera were the most significant groups amongst the obligate species with Coleoptera, Lepidoptera and Diptera dominating the highly associated species. Most obligate species are phytophagous in their use of Ash. Highly associated species were evenly split between those that are phytophagous and those classified as saproxylic with a smaller number of species employing a range of additional feeding strategies. Among highly associated species that are phytophagous, Privet (Ligustrum sp.) was the most frequent alternative plant used. This and other alternative trees and shrubs could be used to help mitigate the effects of Ash Dieback in limited localised situations, where rare species might be affected. Additional suggestions for managing the impact of Ash Dieback on invertebrates are discussed.


Tree Disease in the United Kingdom: A Briefing and the Case for Intervention

Report by Natural Ecology Mitigation Ltd.


The potential for field studies and genomic technologies to enhance resistance and resilience of British tree populations to pests and pathogens

Genetic research on the interactions of temperate tree hosts with pests and pathogens, and breeding for resistance or low susceptibility, are hindered by the long generation time and large size of tree species. Foresters need to be quick to exploit new technologies that may accelerate research and breeding programmes, and opportunistic in gaining maximum use from existing experimental tree plots. A fruitful approach may be to apply new genomic methods to the analysis of established provenance and progeny trials, seed orchards and clonal archives, where screening for pests and pathogens may occur. An important test case of this approach is underway in Britain with respect to ash (Fraxinus excelsior L.) and the search for resistance to the dieback caused by Hymenoscyphus fraxineus (T. Kowalski) Baral, Queloz, Hosoya, comb. nov. This review examines: (1) the use of field trials for pathogen and pest resistance in forest trees, (2) how field trials may support the application of genomic technologies to tree health issues, (3) the extent of the field trial resource in Britain, (4) issues that constrain the use and maintenance of field trials, (5) an outline of possible experimental designs, (6) the use of natural systems and (7) funding of long-term trials. Application of the latest technologies may be critically dependent on the availability of well-designed and maintained, long-term, field trials that produce invaluable resources and results for decades.


PhD studentship: The genomic basis of ash dieback tolerance

In partnership with the Forestry Commission’s research arm, Forest Research, this PhD project will exploit genomic technologies to accelerate the development of ash trees that can resist or tolerate ash dieback, caused by the fungal pathogen Hymenoscyphus pseudoalbidus.

The project will be co-supervised by Dr Richard Buggs, who led the NERC-funded British Ash Tree Genome Project at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), and Dr Steve Lee, Programme Leader for Genetic Improvement at Forest Research. Genomic and transcriptomic approaches will be used to seek understanding of the genetic basis for patterns of tolerance/susceptibility of ash trees to ash dieback in large-scale plantations of ash carried out by Forest Research in 2013, funded by Defra.

The PhD student will join a vibrant lab at QMUL working on tree genomics, and benefit from the expertise and resources of Forest Research and the wider scientific community working on ash dieback.

Deadline for applications: 11th January 2015.


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Research, funding and policy news – 5 November 2014

The key to survival

The latest Forestry Commission assessment of the spread of ash dieback (caused by the fungus Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, previously called Chalara fraxinea) shows a consolidation of the wider environment outbreaks in the North East and North West, with the “front” continuing to move towards the West across the entire country – perhaps more slowly than some earlier predictions. There are lots of possible explanations for this, not least that the disease hasn’t had much press coverage lately – people simply aren’t looking for it.


Tree-rotting disease takes hold in Lancashire

There are fears the tree disease ash dieback could be taking a stronger hold in Lancashire. The Forestry Commission said the North West is among the worst areas in the country for the disease, especially in the Forest of Bowland.


Ash Dieback Epidemic Forecast In Kent

By 2018, more than 75% of ash trees in Kent will be infected by ash dieback, with a similar percentage of ash in Sussex affected, according to modelling published in the Government’s tree health management plan. Ash is the most abundant species in Kent, making up around a fifth of the county’s trees.


Garlic injection could tackle tree diseases

Injecting trees with a concentrated form of garlic might help save trees in the UK from deadly diseases. Operating under an experimental government licence, a prototype piece of technology to administer the solution is being trialled on a woodland estate in Northamptonshire.

More on BBC News Channel 19:43PM on 7 OCT 2014


AshStat – updated ash dieback disease statistics in Britain

Silviculture Research International is tracking the emergence and spread of ash dieback disease (Chalara fraxinea) in Britain. The AshStat graphic is updated regularly, with data taken from Forestry Commission Plant Health reports.


Introduction of Mandshurian ash (Fraxinus mandshurica Rupr.) to Estonia: Is it related to the current epidemic on European ash (F. excelsior L.)?

Recent investigations in Japan have suggested that the causal organism of the ongoing epidemic affecting European ash (Fraxinus excelsior) in Europe, Hymenoscyphus pseudoalbidus, may originate in East Asia. The fungus may have been unintentionally carried to Europe during the introduction of Mandshurian ash (F. mandshurica), the host tree of the fungus in East Asia. Still unicentric emergence hypothesis is in force: An area in the eastern Poland or Baltic has been shown to be the presumed epicentre of the epidemic. Really, during the Soviet occupation, several consignments of F. mandshurica seeds and plants, originating directly from the natural range of F. mandshurica in East Asia (Russian Far East), reached Baltic areas. In this paper, an overview about the Mandshurian ash is presented, the history of introduction of F. mandshurica to Estonia is reviewed and colonization of F. excelsior in this country by H. pseudoalbidus is briefly discussed. At present, we could not find any evidence, spatial or temporal, for a direct connection of the disease emergence on native F. excelsior with the introduction of F. mandshurica. The pathogen first colonized northwest Estonia and moved southeast and not from south to north as would be expected according to the hitherto existing unicentric hypothesis. However, more information is needed from different regions before to pose a multicentric emergence hypothesis and to deepen more into the investigations of the environmental factors that affected the host and supported to the epidemic in different areas.


New warning that 80% of ash trees could die

There’s a new warning that the deadly ash dieback disease is still causing devastation in the countryside and woodland. The Chalara fraxinea fungus which causes it was first found in the wild in Norfolk two years ago, before cases sprang up around the country. Scientists say that up to 80% of all ash trees could be lost.


Recent post on the OpenAshDieback crowdsourcing hub:

Comment: Ash pathogen Hymenoscyphus pseudoalbidus renamed Hymenoscyphus fraxineus


It’s a do or die situation in this clash of the ash

Teagasc researchers will counter ash dieback disease by crossing Asian and Irish species.


Observatree – coming spring 2015!

Observatree is an exciting conservation partnership project, harnessing the power of citizen science to establish a new tree health early warning system. Working together with the public, and networking with related projects, we will detect new threats and track movement and spread of existing pests and diseases.

To receive updates from Observatree, please email us.


Meeting report: European Workshop on Chalara

Cost Action FP 1103, Fraxback 16–18 September 2014, Palanga, Lithuania


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Research, funding and policy news – 30 July 2014

Ash dieback in the UK: how will it affect the rest of the woodland ecosystem?

Ash  dieback  in  the  UK  is  likely  to  lead  to  the  extinction  or  decline  of  over  50 species which are reliant on or highly associated with this tree, including mosses, lichens and beetles, a new study suggests. The researchers recommend that the ash trees are not felled but left to die naturally and in time replaced with mixtures of species such as beech and sycamore which support similar woodland species.


Hymenoscyphus samples needed

In recent years, extensive mortality of ash (Fraxinus excelsior) has occurred, as a result of infection by the pathogen Hymenoscyphus pseudoalbidus. Forest Research is investigating the genetics and biology of the causal pathogen, but this task would be helped if we could compare it to other Hymenoscyphus sp. that occur on species other than ash.

If anyone comes across any Hymenoscyphus specimens (white fruiting bodies, formed late spring / summer on stems, see below), we would be most grateful to receive samples.

Please could samples be sent dry and the following information (where possible) provided:

Host species
Sample location
Sample date
Name of collector
Any other information (e.g. suspected Hymenoscyphus sp., presence / absence of crosiers, spore sizes etc.).

Please send samples to: Joan Webber / Kevin King, Centre for Ecosystems Society and Biosecurity, Forest Research, Alice Holt Lodge, Gravel Hill Road, Farnham, GU10 4LH.


TGAC releases new genetic data to combat ash dieback epidemic

The Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC) has released new genetic data that will help understand the spread of the ash dieback epidemic, across Europe and the UK. As part of the NORNEX consortium, TGAC has sequenced 20 genomes of the fungus (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus) responsible for the spread of the ash dieback epidemic that threatens our third most common broadleaf tree (after oak and birch). The data is available for analysis on the crowdsourcing site OpenAshDieBack.


Draft assemblies of ash tree unigenes and proteome

Draft assemblies of ash tree unigenes and proteome are available for download from The British Ash Tree Genome Project website.


Recent post on the OpenAshDieback crowdsourcing hub:

Genome sequencing of 23 strains of H. pseudoalbidus from Europe


More than 80,000 trees felled across Northern Ireland after ash disease hits 90 sites

According to Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill, the disease has been confirmed at more than 90 sites. Some 3,000 sites have been inspected since the outbreak of the virulent plant disease was first detected here in November 2012. Of these confirmed outbreaks, 63 were found in forestry plantations, three in nursery or trade sites, nine in urban amenity settings, three on roadsides, 10 in private gardens and four in hedgerows. No confirmed reports show the disease infecting mature ash trees in Northern Ireland.


Tree health and plant biosecurity: Government Response to the Committee’s Tenth Report of Session 2013-14 – Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

Terms of Reference
First Special Report
Government Response


Chalara fraxinea: Empowering land owners, people and communities to make informed decisions and take appropriate action

Tuesday 12th August 2014, 18.30-21:00
Mendlesham Community Centre, Suffolk.

Tuesday 26th August, 18.30-21:00
The Ancell Centre, Hadleigh, Suffolk

Download  flyer and programme

Organised by Mid-Suffolk and Babergh District, EATaLOG and Suffolk County Council
To book a place, email


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Research, funding and policy news – 11 June 2014

Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, the correct scientific name for the fungus causing ash dieback in Europe

Under the rules for the naming of fungi with pleomorphic life-cycles adopted in July 2011, the nomenclaturally correct name for the fungus causing the current ash dieback in Europe is determined to be Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, with the basionym Chalara fraxinea, and Hymenoscyphus pseudoalbidus as a taxonomic synonym of H. fraxineus.


Ash dieback in the UK: A review of the ecological and conservation implications and potential management options

The authors  of this paper assess the potential ecological impact of Hymenoscyphus pseudoalbidus (ash dieback) on Fraxinus excelsior in the UK. 953 species were identified as associated with F. excelsior trees: 12 birds, 28 mammals, 58 bryophytes, 68 fungi, 239 invertebrates, 548 lichens. Forty-four ‘obligate’ species were identified: 11 fungi, 29 invertebrates and 4 lichens; and 62 ‘highly associated’ species.

Off-setting the loss of ash with ‘alternative tree species’ may be one ‘solution’ to the biodiversity threat. No single alternative tree species can act as host for all ash-associated species but Quercus robur/petraea can host 69%. In an assessment of ecosystem function, when compared to other European deciduous tree species, F. excelsior interacts with the environment in a unique way, particularly in relation to nutrient cycling.

Exploration of different management scenarios in response to ash dieback indicated that management which did not remove infected F. excelsior trees was the best for ‘obligate’ and ‘highly associated’ species.

The results highlight wide-ranging ecological implications of ash dieback of relevance to other invasive pests and pathogens that are threatening the integrity of other tree species and woodland ecosystems.


Suffolk: Trees show resilience to dreaded ash dieback

Wildlife experts have said there are reasons for optimism despite the continued spread of ash dieback. Although a recent report suggested that half of East Anglia’s ash will be infected by 2018, due to air borne spores of the chalara fraxinea fungus, many already affected by the disease are showing a high level of resilience.


Population structure of the invasive forest pathogen Hymenoscyphus pseudoalbidus

Hymenoscyphus pseudoalbidus (anamorph: Chalara fraxinea) is an invasive and highly destructive fungal pathogen found on common ash Fraxinus excelsior in Europe and is native to East Asia. To gain insights into its dispersal mechanisms and history of invasion, we used microsatellite markers and characterized the genetic structure and diversity of H. pseudoalbidus populations at three spatial levels: (i) between Europe and Japan; (ii) in Europe and (iii) at the epidemic’s front in Switzerland. Our data suggest that H. pseudoalbidus was introduced just once by at least two individuals. The potential source region of H. pseudoalbidus is vast and further investigations are required for a more accurate localization of the source population.


RFS publishes new guidelines on Chalara (Ash Dieback)

The RFS has issued new Chalara (Chalara fraxinea) Ash Dieback management guidance notes for woodland owners and managers. New cases of Chalara Ash Dieback are expected to be reported over the coming months as trees come into leaf. The Society is urging woodland owners affected by the disease to consider their woodland objectives and local circumstances before deciding on which actions to take.

Download the guidance


Government ministers in Ireland discuss Chalara ash dieback

Republic of Ireland agriculture minister Tom Hayes and his Northern Ireland counterpart Michelle O’Neill have highlighted the importance of continued co-operation in tackling plant disease throughout Ireland. The two ministers were speaking at the All-Ireland Chalara ash dieback Conference in Dundalk, where they informed delegates that findings of the disease throughout the island of Ireland have been limited mainly to recently imported material.


Chalara ash dieback workshop

Wednesday June 18th, 9.30am – 4pm
Lawshill village hall, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

This free workshop will bring together managers of ash research sites, concerned land-owners and managers of woodlands experiencing or threatened by Chalara ash dieback. The aim is to share information and experience and to renew partnerships in ash genetics and tree improvement research.

After lunch, we will visit two local woodlands to see Chalara ash dieback – Frithy Wood, a mature woodland and Golden Wood, a young woodland where ash dieback was first reported in Suffolk.

Numbers are limited, so to reserve your place at this important event, contact Tim Rowland on 01453 884264 or e-mail him at:


Recognising early ash dieback leaf symptoms

Teagasc’s Forestry Development Department have produced a new pictorial guide to recognising early ash dieback leaf symptoms.


Recent posts on the OpenAshDieback crowdsourcing hub:

Analysis of UK Ash diversity set- morphological traits and disease susceptibility

20 UK isolates sequenced and submitted by The Genome Analysis Centre


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Research, funding and policy news – 9 May 2014

Updated Tree Health Management Plan published

The tree health management plan sets out government’s approach to tree health in England which is in line with the Plant Biosecurity Strategy. It includes updates on the management approaches to Chalara ash dieback, Phytophthora Ramorum, Phytophthora kernovia and Oak Processionary Moth. It also sets out how government and a wide range of other partners are managing new and future threats to our tree population in England.

Download Tree Health Management Plan
Download Research Synopsis


Ash disease ‘unstoppable’ as it spreads to nearly every county in Ireland

Deadly ash dieback disease has spread to nearly every county in the country, sparking a warning it is now unstoppable. The tree disease has been found in 120 locations nationwide and resulted in the felling of 1,300 acres of forest.


Assessing and addressing the impacts of ash dieback on UK woodlands and trees of conservation importance (Phase 2) (NECR151)

This report by Natural England assesses the potential ecological impact of ash dieback on UK woodlands and species and investigates possible woodland management options which might ameliorate the problems caused by ash dieback. The work has been jointly funded by Defra, Department of the Environment Northern Ireland, Forestry Commission, Scottish Natural Heritage and Natural Resources Wales.


Ash dieback ‘could affect 75% of trees in worst-hit areas’

The deadly fungus, Chalara fraxinea will infect most ash trees in the south and east of England by 2018, government models suggest. Conservationists said such a rapid spread would be “devastating” to landscapes and have a “very real economic cost”.


Spread of ash dieback disease is slowing, says Defra

Ash dieback disease is spreading more slowly than had been feared and new chemical treatments may be able to save the most valued mature ash trees in parks and woodlands, according to government scientists.


Citizen science to help fight ash dieback woes

The Future Trees Trust is one of the partners in a new initiative, the Living Ash Project, which is asking members of the public to report information about the health of ash trees. They are especially interested in trees that may have some tolerance to the disease – Chalara ash dieback – that is threatening our second-most common broadleaved tree.


New tree health research projects announced

Seven new research projects have received a share of £7M to help address threats to UK forests, woods and trees. The multi-disciplinary Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Initiative (THAPBI) will generate knowledge to tackle pests and diseases and to support the future health of the UK’s woodlands, commercial forests and urban trees. The societal benefits of the UK’s trees are estimated at around £1.8 billion per year.


A volatile lactone of Hymenoscyphus pseudoalbidus, pathogen of European ash dieback, inhibits host germination

The largely unknown secondary metabolism of the plant pathogenic fungus Hymenoscyphus pseudoalbidus was investigated by use of the CLSA method. A set of volatile lactones was identified by GC/MS. The lactones were synthesized and used in bioassays in which one of the compounds was found to be a strong germination inhibitor for ash seeds, causing necroses in the plant tissue.


Recent posts on the OpenAshDieBack crowdsourcing hub:

FIR analysis: genes encoding predicted secreted proteins occur in both gene sparse and gene dense regions of the H. pseudoalbidus genome

The mitochondrial genome of H. pseudoalbidus

Year 1 report available on bioRxiv


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