Ash diebackPUBLISHED ON: 17 MAY 2023
You may have heard of a disease called ash dieback – otherwise called chalara – which is affecting some woodlands in the UK.
This disease, caused by a fungus, blocks the tree’s water transport system. It spreads via spores blown by the wind and can travel at least 10 miles.
Ash is only a minor component in the New Forest due to the acidic, nutrient-poor soils and is generally only found in small numbers along watercourses, or as an occasional roadside tree. The impact has therefore not been anything like elsewhere in the country, which is sadly seeing many ash trees felled.
Nik Gruber, Senior Tree Officer at the New Forest National Park Authority said: ‘Fortunately, our predominant species in the New Forest is oak and beech. However, there are many ash trees in hedgerows, farmland, parks and gardens, in rural and urban locations across Hampshire and the New Forest.
‘Each year, our partner Forestry England has to fell a small number of trees where they present a potential health and safety hazard.’
Removing these trees not only helps to make the woodlands safer, but also helps to manage the spread of the disease and allows more light into the forest to help new, healthier and more diverse native trees to grow.
Ash also features in Forestry England’s roadside safety surveys to ensure the conditions at the road edges are favourable but only a small number have been felled in the New Forest area this year.
Michael Ullman, Forester for the area with Forestry England, said: ‘Finding ash dieback doesn’t mean we have to take out every ash tree. Those trees showing tolerance are kept and monitored, and we can help these trees stay resilient by reducing the size of the crown or reducing their overall size. The gaps left by those trees that do need to be felled benefits those young seedlings on the forest floor by giving them more light and space.’
Visitors can also do their bit to help local trees by cleaning dogs, buggies, bikes and feet after every woodland visit, lessening the potential for spreading infections such as chalara.
Trees with ash dieback can be identified by their dark, withered leaves.
Forestry authorities are keen to get reports of possible sightings of ash dieback in areas not yet recorded. This will help them get a full picture of the spread of the disease. Sightings can be reported at Tree Alert (forestresearch.gov.uk)