Concern grows on trees

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CLAIMS by the Forestry Commission Scotland that the ash tree disease in Britain is nothing to worry in the Galloway region are being disputed.

Following inquiries by the Gazette last week, a spokesman for the FC said ash was “not a major species” for the area and there was little cause for concern.

However, a number of readers have taken issue with the claim.

One of them, Howard Sunderland, from Sandhead, said: “Ash are one of our most common native trees. This is a very serious disease that is airborne.

“There are many thousands of ash trees in Dumfries and Galloway, and they are very important to the area, not least for wildlife.

“The virulent disease could have even more of an impact than Dutch elm disease had. Unless the authorities can think of some way of stopping this, it will eradicate ash in the whole of Britain. We can only hope for a miracle.”

It has now been reported that the disease – ash dieback – has been found in the Castle Douglas area.

Mr Sunderland, a Yorkshireman who has lived in the Sandhead area for 13 years, explained that he has a particular personal concern over ash dieback. “I have a six-acre wood I am trying to rejuvenate and I have planted many ash trees. When I heard of this disease, I thought, ‘Oh my God! Here we go again’.

“There are so many other tree disease prevalent at the moment. There is sudden oak death, spruce and larch are under attack from a fungal-borne disease and chestnuts have a disease. This is another nail in the coffin for Britain’s trees.”

And Mary MacIlwraith, from Newmilns Farm, Wigtown, said: “Ash dieback is a virulent fungus and anyone with an ash tree in their garden or fields should be vigilant. The Forestry Commission should be advising us on how to check trees, not dismiss the likelihood of the disease reaching this region.”

According to the Forestry Commission Scotland, there are more than 150,000 hectares of trees in Dumfries and Galloway, of which around 514 hectares are ash.

A rapid action Chalara survey carried out by the FCS has now undertaken and, in the sample survey, which covered 80,000 sq km and lasted five days, five per cent of the sites investigated showed potential symptoms of the disease and will now be revisited for further inspection and where necessary samples taken for testing.

The FCS said: “As the disease only spreads in summer, typically during July and August, there is now a window of opportunity in which to obtain best scientific advice on the appropriate action to take, including how best to deal with infected sites.

“There is no risk to human or animal health from this disease. There is no need to restrict public access to woodlands either, but members of the public are asked to behave responsibly to ensure that they do not inadvertently carry ash leaves from one woodland area to another.”