Friday, 26 October 2012

Ash Tree Fungus - Chalara fraxinea

I love trees.
One of my most melancholy moments was standing on a hill overlooking our road after the 1987 hurricanes and seeing it blocked by lines of fallen trees.  It later became clear that many of these were already victims of Dutch Elm Disease, which virtually eliminated the beautiful, majestic English Elm from our countryside.

I've had a smoldering worry about  Chalara fraxinea  (the fungus that has already killed 90% of the Danish ash tree population) since first hearing of it some time ago.  That worry was blown into a flame by the redoubtable  George Monbiot and the announcement that the fungus has been found in Woodland Trust's Pound Farm woodland in Suffolk, and Norfolk Wildlife Trust's Lower Wood reserve, in Ashwellthorpe - both virtually in my backyard. Does this perhaps mean that spores have come in from the continent on the wind, this being the most easterly part of England?  It appears that at last, though, that the UK Government has halted the import of ash tree saplings after it's discovery in plantations in East Anglia.   Do horses and stable doors spring to mind at all? 
Of course it's a statement of the bleedin' obvious to mention the advance in communications  between now and the late 60s and 70s,  when Dutch Elm disease was doing its worse . But, since the most powerful tool at our disposal in the battle to come is knowledge, the more we can collect and report information the better. Identifying trees that are suffering is been made as painless as such a nasty task could be by the Invasive Alien Species app  which helps with identification and allow you to send geo-tagged photographs from your phone.   I guess the information will go to http://www.ashtag.org/.    I've bookmarked the latter and, although there's nothing there at present, the site has looked different on both my visits so I guess there's someone working on it as I write...

And the photo? Taken 100 yds from my home early this afternoon. Just about every single tree in the picture  is an ash...

27/10 update
Since my original posting yesterday, Michael Rosen has pointed out on his blog  the somewhat nationalistic nature of the media-led "crisis" and I can but concur. How is it that Denmark - a country just across the North Sea - has suffered an environmental catastrophe on this scale in the years 2005 to 2008 and I knew nothing of it? Because, not being in the UK, it was given little attention in our media.  As citizens of the world we should be concerned for all ash tree populations, but in actuality my anxiety is more local than national. The trees I walk or drive past and know have a greater emotional atttachment  for me than those in Devon or Denmark. This is inevitable. Most people are nimbies at heart. The trick, as Friends of the Earth slogan said,  is to think globally and act locally.