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HELP US ROOT OUT FATAL ASH TREE DISEASE.

Byline: Mary Griffin NEWS REPORTER

WARWICKSHIRE Wildlife Trust is sounding a warning about a new disease that could potentially wipe out the county's ash trees.

Ash dieback disease, chalara fraxinea, has swept across Europe and is now putting Britain's 80 million ash trees at deadly risk.

The Wildlife Trust is urging its members and supporters across Warwickshire to report potential sightings of infected trees in a bid to stop the problem spreading.

Peter Thorne, reserves officer for the trust, said: "We urge visitors to our nature reserves and elsewhere in Warwickshire, Coventry and Solihull to be vigilant and report any concerns they may have about ash dieback disease to Warwickshire Wildlife Trust."

The airborne disease has caused devastation in Europe and has already led to the destruction of 100,000 trees in the UK after sightings were confirmed in Norfolk and Suffolk.

Ash is the third most abundant species of broadleaf tree in UK woodlands and experts are warning that if the disease is allowed to spread, the impact here could be as serious as the 1970s outbreak of Dutch elm disease, which saw millions of trees destroyed.

The loss of the trees could change a woodland's ecology, posing a serious threat to woldlife species such as moth caterpillars, who feed off their leaves.

The government has now brought in a ban on the import and movement of ash trees to try and halt the spread.

But wildlife trusts across the country claim the ban should have been put in place sooner.

Rene Olivieri, chair of The Wildlife Trusts, said: "We are concerned about the spread of this disease as the 47 Wildlife Trusts around the UK manage around 93,000 hectars of land which includes woodland.

"Ash trees, as hedgerow and field trees, are an important feature in our landscape and also a key component of ecologically unique woodlands that support rare species.

"Their loss would have a dramatic negative impact on our natural environment."

The trusts are urgently lobbying the government to introduce a mandatory ban on imports as well as calling for an emergency summit to discuss the problem with scientists, commercial interests, conservationists and landowners.

Ash dieback disease is characterised by wilting and black or brown discolouration of leaves, small blemishes or lesions on the bark and withered tree tops and shoots.

Anyone who thinks they have spotted symptoms of the disease should contact the Forestry Commission Plant Health Service on 0131 314 6414 or Warwickshire Wildlife Trust on 024 7630 2912.
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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Nov 1, 2012
Words:416
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