Ash dieback: what we're doing
There are an estimated 80 million ash trees in the UK, helping to shape some of our best loved landscapes. We manage 25,000 hectares (61,776 acres) of woodland and 135 landscape sites and deer parks which include thousands of veteran ash trees and several hundred ancient ash trees over 300 years old - so clearly we're concerned about the impact of ash dieback.
We're doing all we can to help tackle the disease on our land. We are also working with the Forestry Commission, The Woodland Trust, FERA and Defra on the most effective way to tackle the disease and are pleased with the contribution that we've been able to make to the recently announced Defra’s ash dieback plan.
Taking the disease facts into account, we believe there are four priorities:
- Concentrate on finding ways to eradicate the disease from the widely scattered planting sites, to prevent them from accelerating the spread across the country. This will involve destroying young trees and their fallen leaves.
- Try ways of protecting particularly important trees, such as veteran ash, or increasing their resilience in other ways.
- Seek to change European and international plant health legislation to provide more robust and responsive protection to trees. Without stringent biosecurity measures in place for all plant movements into and within the UK we will be constantly dealing with new outbreaks of new pests and diseases.
- This disease has revealed some alarming practices in the nursery trade and there needs to be a long, hard look at how we can ensure the health of all young trees we buy in the future.
The steps we are taking:
- In the main infected areas, the National Trust will carry out another survey in the summer 2013 to monitor any increase in the spread of the disease on our land.
- We will be inspecting and where necessary removing and replacing all ash trees planted in the last five years on our land, and we call on everyone else who has recently planted ash trees to do the same. We have already removed thousands of young trees that we had bought and were found to be infected.
- One thing that we and other owners must not do is prematurely fell any older trees in these areas simply because we think they might be infected. We need to ensure they remain safe as there is still a chance some of these mature trees will pull through. Especially as it is much better for wildlife for the trees to gradually decline than be felled prematurely.
- We will be making our woodlands available to researchers so they can carry out trials and learn more about this disease.
- We have offered our plant conservation centre as an additional resource for growing disease free native ash, for planting once conditions have improved.
- We will map all our ancient ash tree sites so we can consider the most appropriate ways to protect these important trees.
- We will look closely at the seed source and supply chain for the young trees of all species that we purchase in the future to ensure they are genuinely home grown and healthy.
- We are looking at means to have robust biosecurity measures in place at our properties.