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Imports banned in bid to save UK's ashes
Experts at Westonbirt Arboretum are on their guard against a deadly fungus which is devastating ash trees across Europe.
The fungus, which causes leaf loss and crown dieback and can lead to tree death, has wiped out 90 per cent of ash trees in Denmark in just seven years and is becoming widespread throughout central Europe.
Ash dieback was previously identified in nurseries and recently planted sites including a car park, a college campus, and a new woodland, but has now been found in the wider environment at sites in East Anglia, increasing fears it could wreak the same kind of damage as Dutch elm disease in the 1970s.
So far, the fungus has only been found in the east of England, but local nurseries and arboretums are on the lookout for signs of infection.
An Westonbirt Arboretum spokesman said: “We have a rigorous precaution and testing system and will be looking for symptoms.”
Imports of ash trees have been banned.
Professor Ian Boyd, chief scientific adviser at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, warned the disease could be disastrous for Britain's ash trees and have dire ecological consequences.
He said: "Ecologically it is going to change the countryside very significantly. Parallels have been made with Dutch elm disease of the 1970s. This is not good."
In the UK, ash trees make up around 30 per cent of the wooded landscape, across woodlands, hedgerows and parks.
University of East Anglia researcher Chris Panter said that if ash trees suffer large-scale declines, 60 of the country's rarest insect species could be at risk of being lost from the UK.
"As well as 80 common insects, at least 60 of the rarest insect species in the UK have an association with ash trees. These are mostly rare beetles and flies," he said.
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