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Oxfordshire Ash Summit

posted on June 11, 2019

oXaSHOn 22nd May, a group of stakeholders with an interest in ash dieback in Oxfordshire, gathered together at the Sylva Wood Centre in south Oxfordshire. The meeting was convened by Sylva Foundation to consider the risks, impacts, and communication issues relating to ash dieback.

Introductory talks were made by Nick Mottram (Oxfordshire County Council), Gabriel Hemery (Sylva Foundation), Rob Coventry (Forestry Commission), and Louise Hill (Oxford University). Afterwards, the main business of the day followed, with a series of sessions during which groups considered three key areas in turn, each building on a previous iteration:

  1. Risks
  2. Environmental Impacts
  3. Communications

The whole process is aiming to co-ordinate an effective response in to ash dieback Oxfordshire and ultimately to foster a sustainable treescape. We will be building on the experiences of three other English counties that have made significant progress in rallying round the cause of ash dieback (Devon, Leicestershire, and Kent), and consider the action plan template provided by the Tree Council. Links to these and other documents are included in the meeting minutes (see below).

Oxfordshire Ash Summit

Oxfordshire Ash Summit, Sylva Wood Centre, 22nd May 2019

The main outcome of the meeting was an agreement to reconvene in the autumn to progress collaboration and possible development of an Ash Dieback Action Plan for the county. A full minute of the meeting, including links to various documents which can be downloaded, is available to download here

The Oxfordshire Ash Workshop was funded by Oxfordshire County Council.

Category: FORESTRY, SCIENCE
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Ash dieback is predicted to cost £15 billion in Britain

posted on May 6, 2019

A research paper of considerable importance has been published today, which estimates the cost of ash dieback in Britain to be £15 billion. Sylva Foundation took a central role in the work, the research being led by Oxford-Sylva scholar Dr Louise Hill while she completed her DPhil at the University of Oxford under the Oxford-Sylva Graduate Scholarship programme (now sadly lapsed due to lack of funding). Sylva Foundation CEO Dr Gabriel Hemery acted as an external supervisor for Dr Hill, and is a co-author of the paper.


A team of researchers from the University of Oxford, Fera Science, Sylva Foundation and the Woodland Trust has calculated the true economic cost of Ash dieback – and the predictions, published today in Current Biology, are staggering:

  • The total cost of Ash dieback to the UK is estimated to be £15 billion
  • Half of this (£7 billion) will be over the next 10 years
  • The total cost is 50 times larger than the annual value of trade in live plants to and from Britain, which is the most important route by which invasive plant diseases enter the country
  • There are 47 other known tree pests and diseases that could arrive in Britain and which may cost an additional £1 billion or more

The predicted costs arise from clearing up dead and dying trees and in lost benefits provided by trees, e.g. water and air purification and carbon sequestration. The loss of these services is expected to be the biggest cost to society, while millions of ash trees also line Britain’s roads and urban areas, and clearing up dangerous trees will cost billions of pounds.

Dr Louise Hill, researcher at Plant Sciences at the University of Oxford and lead author of the study, said:

‘The numbers of invasive tree pests and diseases are increasing rapidly, and this is mostly driven by human activities, such as trade in live plants and climate change. Nobody has estimated the total cost of a tree disease before, and we were quite shocked at the magnitude of the cost to society. We estimate the total may be £15 billion – that’s a third more than the reported cost of the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in 2001. The consequences of tree diseases for people really haven’t been fully appreciated before now.’

Dr Nick Atkinson, senior conservation advisor for the Woodland Trust and co-author of the paper, said:

‘When Ash dieback first entered the country, no one could have fully predicted the devastating impact it would have on our native habitats. To see how this has also affected our economy speaks volumes for how important tree health is, and that it needs to be taken very seriously. It is clear that to avoid further economic and ecological impacts, we need to invest more in plant biosecurity measures. This includes better detection, interception and prevention of other pests and diseases entering the country. We need to learn from past mistakes and make sure our countryside avoids yet another blow.’

The scientists say that the total cost could be reduced by replanting lost ash trees with other native trees, but curing or halting the disease is not possible. They advise that the government’s focus now has to be on preventing introductions of other non-native diseases to protect our remaining tree species.

Recommendations:

  • A nationwide replanting scheme could reduce the overall cost by £2.5 billion, by ensuring that lost ecosystem services are replaced
  • Greater focus on and investment in biosecurity and sourcing of safe plant material is needed to keep new diseases out
  • Introduce far tighter controls on imports of all live plants for planting, as this is the largest pathway through which tree diseases are introduced

Background:

Ash dieback is a fungal disease, originally from Asia, which is lethal to Europe’s native ash trees. It was first found in Britain in 2012 and is thought to have been brought to the UK years earlier on infected imported ash trees. It is expected to kill 95-99% of ash trees in Britain.

 

Read the full paper here:     www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(19)30331-8

Paper DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2019.03.033

 

ENDS

For more information or to request images, please contact the University of Oxford press office at ruth.abrahams@admin.ox.ac.uk or 01865 280730.

Or the Woodland Trust press office at HollieAnderson@woodlandtrust.org.uk or 01476 581121


Notes to editors

The University of Oxford has been placed number 1 in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings for the third year running, and at the heart of this success is its ground-breaking research and innovation. The university is world-famous for research excellence and home to some of the most talented people from across the globe. Their work helps the lives of millions, solving real-world problems through a huge network of partnerships and collaborations. The breadth and interdisciplinary nature of its research sparks imaginative and inventive insights and solutions.

Sylva Foundation is an environmental charity working to bring trees and people closer together. It formed the Oxford-Sylva Graduate Scholarship, which co-funded lead author Dr Louise Hill, to foster a robust tree and forest resource in the face of environmental change. It has played a lead role in developing a climate change action plan for Britain’s forests. www.sylva.org.uk

The Woodland Trust is the largest woodland conservation charity in the UK. It has over 500,000 supporters. It wants to see a UK rich in native woods and trees for people and wildlife. The Trust has three key aims:  i) protect ancient woodland which is rare, unique and irreplaceable, ii) restoration of damaged ancient woodland, bringing precious pieces of our natural history back to life, iii) plant native trees and woods with the aim of creating resilient landscapes for people and wildlife. Established in 1972, the Woodland Trust now has over 1,000 sites in its care covering over 22,500 hectares. Access to its woods is free.

Fera Science Limited, formerly the Food and Environment Research Agency, is a joint private/public sector venture between Capita plc and Defra. Using original thinking applied to support sustainable global food security our vision is to support our partners to respond to the challenges ahead through original thinking and world-class science. Fera turns expertise and innovation into ways to support and develop a sustainable food chain, a healthy natural environment, and to protect the global community from biological and chemical risks.

This work was partially funded by the Department for the Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs.


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Maintaining ecosystem properties after loss of ash in Great Britain

posted on September 5, 2018

The latest research paper arising from work supported under our Oxford-Sylva Graduate Scholarship has been published.

Our scholar Dr Louise Hill, who successfully defended her DPhil thesis earlier this year, researched the ecological consequences of ash dieback disease in Great Britain. The paper is the second peer-reviewed output arising from her work, while one more is in the pipeline which considers the financial impacts of the disease.

Citation:
Hill, L, G Hemery, A Hector, and N Brown. 2018. “Maintaining Ecosystem Properties after Loss of Ash in Great Britain.” Journal of Applied Ecology 00: 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2664.13255.

A figure extracted from Hill et al. 2018

Abstract

  1. Acute outbreaks of pests and disease are increasingly affecting tree populations around the world, causing widespread ecological effects. In Britain, ash dieback Hymenoscyphus fraxineus (Baral et al.) has severe impacts on common ash (Fraxinus excelsior L.) populations, and the emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis Fairmaire) is likely to add to the impact in future. This will cause significant changes to the character and functioning of many ecosystems. However, the nature of these changes and the best approach for conserving ecosystems after ash loss are not clear.
  2. We present a method to locate those areas most ecologically vulnerable to loss of a major tree species (common ash) and identify the resultant damage to distinctive ecosystem properties. This method uses the functional traits of species and their distributions to map the potential degree of change in traits across space and recommend management approaches to reduce the change. An analytic hierarchy process is used to score traits according to ecological importance.
  3. Our results indicate that in some areas of Britain, provision of ash‐associated traits could be reduced by over 50% if all ash is lost. Certain woodland types, and trees outside woodlands, may be especially vulnerable to ash loss. However, compensatory growth by other species could halve this impact in the longer term.
  4. We offer management guidance for reducing ecosystem vulnerability to ash loss, including recommending appropriate alternative tree species to encourage through planting or management in particular areas and woodland types.
  5. Synthesis and applications. The method described in this paper allows spatially explicit assessment of species traits to be used in the restoration of ecosystems for the first time. We offer practical recommendations for the ash dieback outbreak in Britain to help conserve functional traits in ecosystems affected by the loss of ash. This technique is widely applicable to a range of restoration and conservation scenarios and represents a step forward in the use of functional traits in conservation.

Related papers:

Hill, L, A Hector, G Hemery, S Smart, M Tanadini, and N Brown. 2017. “Abundance Distributions for Tree Species in Great Britain: A Two-Stage Approach to Modeling Abundance Using Species Distribution Modeling and Random Forest.” Ecology and Evolution 7 (4): 1043–56. https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.2661.


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Rising from the ashes

posted on February 19, 2018

Guest blog by Sylva Scholar, Louise Hill

We congratulate Louise Hill on successfully defending her DPhil at the University of Oxford. Louise is the third (and sadly final) Oxford-Sylva scholar. Over the last four years she has been researching the impacts of ash dieback. Here Louise describes in her own words what she has achieved, and what our support has meant to her personally.  Well done Louise!

It’s been a long road to get here, but four and a half years after starting I have finally finished my DPhil. As the Sylva Scholar, I have been extremely privileged to complete my project at the University of Oxford, with opportunities to meet top scientists, speak at international conferences, and produce the best research that I am capable of.

Louise Hill in Wytham Woods. Photo John Cairns

Louise Hill, Sylva scholar, in Wytham Woods. Photo John Cairns

My research project looked at various different aspects of the ash dieback outbreak in Britain. This disease is one of the most important contemporary challenges to the health of our woods and trees. An invasive fungal pathogen (Hymenoscyphus pseudoalbidus) [Ed. formerly known as Chalara fraxinea], it threatens the future of common ash (Fraxinus excelsior) as a dominant tree in Britain. The impacts of this loss will be widespread: over the coming decades we are likely to see significant impacts on the health of woodland and non-woodland ecosystems, on associated biodiversity, and on human health and wellbeing as the benefits of ash trees to society are lost.

My project was broad and investigated impacts in many of these areas.

  • I carried out experimental work to clarify the impacts of ash loss on woodland ground flora and invertebrate communities.
  • I modelled the distributions of trees and their associated traits and functions (with a paper published in Ecology and Evolution: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ece3.2661/full). This allowed me to investigate the areas and ecosystem types most vulnerable ash loss, and to develop management guidance to help mitigate this loss (paper in review).
  • In my final year, I investigated the economic impacts, an ambitious project which I am now developing further with collaborators at the Woodland Trust and Fera, and which we hope will produce a high-impact publication with political significance.

Hill et al Ecology&Evolution

Hill et al. (2007) Ecology&Evolution

It’s been a lot of hard work, but I have come away with something I feel really proud of: a project that I could make fully my own, that I believe has contributed to both the scientific understanding of the disease and to practical measures to reduce its harm.

None of this would have been possible without support and input from the Sylva Foundation: the scholarship gave me a fantastic opportunity, and I have tried my best to make the most of it. This experience culminated a couple of weeks ago in an invitation to attend a Plant Health and Biosecurity conference at Highgrove, contributing directly to ideas for future policy.

I hope in the future I can carry on working on research in tree diseases in the future, as this project has given me a real drive to continue in this important area.

Louise Hill

[Note from Ed: Louise Hill’s thesis will soon be available online. We will publish a link as soon as possible.]


More about the Sylva Scholarship

Sadly Louise is our third and final Oxford-Sylva Graduate Scholar, as we have been unsuccessful in fundraising sufficiently to appoint a new student.

Read more stories from our Sylva Scholars


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Chalara ash dieback workshop

posted on March 10, 2017

Grassington Town Hall, Grassington, Yorkshire
Thursday June 8th, 10am – 4pm

Ash dieback workshop

Ash dieback workshop

This free workshop will bring together managers of ash research sites, concerned land-owners and managers of woodlands experiencing or threatened by Chalara ash dieback. The aim is to share information and experience and to renew partnerships in ash genetics and tree improvement research.

Speakers at the workshop will be:

  • Dr Jo Clark (Earth Trust) – The Future Trees Trust ash improvement programme and the Living Ash Project.
  • Ted Wilson (Royal Forestry Society) – The biology of Hymenoscyphus fraxineus.
  • Dr Gabriel Hemery (Sylva Foundation) – Getting people involved! The AshTag citizen science project.
  • Ted Wilson (Royal Forestry Society) – Silviculture and management of ash – best practice advice for woodland managers.

After lunch, we will visit Grass Woods, a mature woodland owned by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust which has been badly affected by Chalara ash dieback.
Numbers are limited, so to reserve your place at this important event, contact Tim Rowland at Future Trees Trust on 07896 834518 or e-mail him at Tim.Rowland@futuretrees.org


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People power appeal to save the ash reaches world’s ears

posted on May 16, 2016

Gabriel Hemery inspecting an ash tree fitted with an AshTag

Gabriel Hemery inspecting an ash tree fitted with an AshTag

As part of the publicity surrounding the relaunch of AshTag today, Sylva Foundation chief executive Gabriel Hemery was interviewed by Paul Hawkins for the BBC World Service.

The Living Ash Project is hoping that many more volunteers will help find ash trees that show some tolerance to the dieback fungus. So far one tree — nicknamed ‘Betty’— has been found by another group conducting genetic studies. We need to find at least 100 more trees that show some tolerance to ash dieback, and that’s where you can help!

Read more about the relaunch

With kind permission of the BBC, you can listen the full version of the interview using the link below.


Find out more about how you can help secure a healthy future for ash in Britain. Visit the Living Ash Project website and request a free ashtag.


The Living Ash Project is a Defra-funded consortium comprising representatives from Earth Trust, Future Trees Trust, Sylva Foundation and Forest Research. It aims to identify a large and diverse number of ash trees with good tolerance to Chalara ash dieback, to secure this material for further breeding work, and to quickly make this material available to industry.

We are indebted to volunteers of the Earth Trust in preparing the AshTag packs.


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Help tackle ash dieback

posted on

Wondering what to do about ash dieback? Here’s how you can help.

A unique project is hoping to stem the tide of the ash dieback disease by encouraging people to help in finding the solution.  Although millions of trees are at risk from the disease, the Living Ash Project, one of several research projects into ash’s resilience to dieback, is aiming to find tolerant native ash trees from which to breed the next generation of healthy trees.

Living Ash Project

Living Ash Project

The Living Ash Project is a consortium of specialists including environmental charities Earth Trust, Sylva Foundation and Future Trees Trust, and the Forestry Commission’s research agency Forest Research.

The £1.2M project, funded by Defra, is the only ash dieback project to use ‘citizen science’ to help in gathering information. Members of the public are encouraged to obtain a special aluminium tag to fix to an ash tree and submit basic details about the tree on-line, together with a photo.

The project needs to identify healthy trees, especially in areas where other ash trees are succumbing to ash dieback. As spring advances and leaves begin to appear, now is the perfect time to identify the signs of ash dieback – wilting growth and possibly even bark lesions.

Using the AshTag app on your smartphone or tablet in the field makes the survey really simple

Using the AshTag app on your smartphone or tablet in the field makes the survey really simple

The Living Ash Project urgently needs your help to identify tolerant trees. It is thought that 1% of our ash trees will show a good level of tolerance to ash dieback. The Living Ash Project needs to find at least 400 of these from across the UK to create the next generation of healthy trees. Ash tags are available free of charge from the Living Ash Project by visiting their website www.livingashproject.org.uk

Defra’s Chief Plant Health Officer, Professor Nicola Spence, said:

“Defra is very pleased to be able to support this important project. Not many people may know that 46 species of plants and animals can only live on ash trees, so it’s not only the trees we will be saving.”

Living Ash Project’s lead, Dr Jo Clark, said:

“We really need the help of the public to find healthy ash trees across the country. We’re asking anyone that spends time in the countryside and cares about our woodlands to keep their eyes open for healthy trees in areas of ash dieback and if they spot a healthy tree, report it on the project website.”

 


The Living Ash Project is a Defra-funded consortium comprising representatives from Earth Trust, Future Trees Trust, Sylva Foundation and Forest Research. It aims to identify a large and diverse number of ash trees with good tolerance to Chalara ash dieback, to secure this material for further breeding work, and to quickly make this material available to industry.


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New AshTag app available – help secure a future for ash trees in Britain

posted on February 29, 2016

AshTag-app-store

AshTag in the Apple store

We are excited to announce that our first app is now live in the Apple store – the new AshTag app.

Following the transfer of AshTag to the Sylva Foundation from the University of East Anglia, which first developed the app in 2012, we have been busy updating the app in readiness for a new season of ash tree tagging in 2016 – hopefully with your help!

We need to find ash trees across Britain that are tolerant to ash dieback. We expect that 2016 will witness the greatest spread of this devastating disease.

We offer the AshTag app to enable anyone to report on ash trees that are tolerant (to some degree) to ash dieback, caused by Hymenoscyphus pseudoalbidus – the fungus that causes ash dieback (formerly known as Chalara fraxinea).

We are most interested in larger trees but any tree can be surveyed. We are just as keen to learn about diseased trees as healthy trees. We are particularly keen to survey ash trees in every corner of Britain, because the genetics of ash trees vary across the country. Ideally, the trees selected need to be surveyed every year for at least three years, so that a detailed picture of their health is built up.

Ultimately, trees that appear to have some tolerance to ash dieback will be sampled by taking cuttings, and will enter a programme aiming to breed tolerant trees to secure a future for ash trees in Britain. We are working with partners the Earth Trust and Forest Research in this project, funded by Defra.

Using the AshTag app on your smartphone or tablet in the field makes the survey really simple

Using the AshTag app on your smartphone or tablet in the field makes the survey really simple

The survey consists of five questions and is simple to complete. To take part you can simply set up an account on the website, although using the app will allow you to enter information out in the field. If you would like to request a free AshTag pack, we have some limited supplies: apply here (if you have already requested a pack, don’t worry we have your name in our system). We are particularly keen to hear from those who run communities of volunteers (contact us).

If your tree appears to be tolerant, in the future you may be contacted by a scientist from the Living Ash Project who may be interested in sampling the tree to enter it into the breeding programme.

www.livingashproject.org.uk


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Volunteers in Cornwall go ash tagging

posted on November 3, 2015

Last week volunteers got hands-on tagging ash trees in Cornwall; taking part in the Living Ash Project.

The volunteers were supported by the Helping Hands for Heritage project, funded by Heritage Lottery, aiming to expand the potential of volunteering in the Tamar Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, where they are working towards protecting and caring for its remarkable natural and cultural heritage. Volunteers gathered at National Trust property Antony House to learn about ash dieback and how to tag ash trees so that the trees can be included in our collaborative research.

All photos (c) Tamar Valley Area of Outstanding Beauty.

The Living Ash Project needs more volunteers to help find ash trees that may have some tolerance to ash dieback, and to include them in a breeding programme to secure a future for this precious native tree species.

We have a limited number of free ash tags to give away to individual volunteers, who can request these via our webform – click here. If you run a volunteer group that may be interested in getting involved, please contact Gabriel Hemery.


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Sylva Wood Centre grows from the ashes

posted on December 12, 2014

Following weeks of demolition and clearance, work on rebuilding the first of our structures at the Sylva Wood Centre is finally underway. Today the first roof panel was installed at Building No1.

Building1 roof 12Dec2014

Building1 roof 12Dec2014

This first building – an old potato store – will house four or five small medium enterprises working in wood. A large area is dedicated as a Teaching Workshop, and up to eight small units are being offered as incubation workshops aiming to help new wood businesses establish successfully.

We welcome expressions of interest, particularly from fledgling wood-based businesses.

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