Ash dieback in our woodlands

The native ash tree

Ash dieback is a growing concern across the country including our woodlands in Brecon Beacons and Monmouthshire. This fungal disease is changing our local habitats and we are working hard to lessen its effects.

What is our response to tackling ash dieback?

The ash tree is a common feature in several of our woodlands in Brecon Beacons and Monmouthshire; this makes them vulnerable to diseases like ash dieback.  As part of ongoing tree surveys, our woodland ranger team are carefully assessing the areas where infected ash trees are likely to be a health and safety risk to people or property.  Some infected trees may need to be felled to remove the risk and to give other native trees the best chance of reproducing naturally.  Our rangers are working alongside NRW and other organisations to obtain the appropriate permissions for felling the affected trees. 

Aspect, slope, soil type, water availability and man-made stresses on the trees will determine the rate in which these infected trees will succumb.   Where there are just one or two trees, we can monitor them and remove them when it becomes necessary.  But in places such as roadsides and where the trees are showing advanced stages, we will have to take decisive action.   As the disease progresses in the tree it becomes more and more difficult to remove it safely. 

Despite what will be a tragic loss of trees, our team will be seizing the opportunity to increase the diversity of tree species in the areas hit hardest by ash dieback, by planting native tree species and allowing areas with other species already present to set seed themselves. This work will open up new spaces for flora to grow, which in turn creates new habitats for nature to live in.

Our long-term aim is to help our woodlands be better equipped to face climate change and diseases like ash dieback.

What is ash dieback?

Ash dieback, or Chalara or Chalara dieback is a disease of ash trees caused by a fungus called Hymenoscyphus fraxineus.   The fungus was previously called Chalara fraxinea.   It causes leaf loss, crown dieback and bark lesions in affected trees.   Once a tree is infected the disease is usually fatal, either directly, or indirectly by weakening the tree to the point where it succumbs more readily to attacks by other pests or pathogens.   

It is not known yet what the full impact of the disease will be in the U.K.   Evidence from continental Europe suggests it will be widespread as it is transported by wind.   At this point scientists are working to learn from existing and emerging research and practical experience in combatting the disease in other countries.  Some trees will be resistant, and the prolific seeding nature of ash will eventually see its recovery in decades to come.