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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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Tree Charter legacy lives on

posted on April 17, 2018

The Charter for Trees, Woods and People, launched in 2017, continues to result in media interest and actions on the ground. This week is the inaugural meeting of the new Tree Charter UK Board.

Sculptor Simon Clements (based at the Sylva Wood Centre) features this month in the Countryside Magazine, in an article highlighting the best of British craft and focusing on his work creating the Charter Poles. Another of the Sylva Wood Centre craftspeople, Rodas Irving of Oxford Oak, recently returned from Grizedale Forest in Cumbria where he completed installation of seating around the base the ‘Strengthening Landscapes‘ sculpture; one of 11 Charter Pole sculptures located around the UK.

Now that the Tree Charter exists, the next step is to embed it into the fabric of society. A Tree Charter UK Board has been established comprising of organisations which played a key role in developing the Tree Charter to date, and can ensure a broad range of views are represented. We are pleased that Sylva Foundation CEO Gabriel Hemery is one of the Board members, which will meet for the first time this Friday.

Read more about the Tree Charter.

 


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See us on BBC Countryfile this weekend

posted on November 2, 2017
BBC One Countryfile

Watch us on BBC One Countryfile

We’re looking forward to seeing the Sylva Wood Centre on BBC Countryfile this Sunday evening.

The programme team visited us, with presenter Matt Baker, to see sculptor Simon Clements at work on the Tree Charter Poles (read more), Nick Keighley’s mobile sawmill in action, and local school students enjoying a Forest School session in young woodland in the Future Forest and woodland on the Earth Trust’s neighbouring land.

The programme will be broadcast on 5th November at 6.15pm on BBC One. You will be able watch the programme online here

Willowcroft Community School children with Matt Baker for BBC Countryfile

Willowcroft Community School children with Matt Baker for BBC Countryfile

 

 


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BBC investigates future forests

posted on May 26, 2017

The Future of Forestry was this week’s theme on the BBC Radio 4 flagship environmental programme Costing the Earth.

BBC Costing The Earth

BBC Costing The Earth

The main question posed was whether Britain could revive its forestry and provide for more of its own needs.

BBC reporter Tom Heap came to interview Sylva’s CEO Gabriel Hemery at the Sylva Wood Centre. He also spoke with one of our resident furniture makers Jan Waterston, our current craftsperson-in-residence in partnership with Rycotewood Furniture Centre. The programme also featured Stuart Goodall from Confor, and Matt Larsen-Daw from the Woodland Trust.

The programme is available on the BBC iPlayer.


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National survey featured on BBC Radio

posted on September 11, 2015

The British Woodlands Survey — this year exploring adaptation to environmental change — has featured on BBC Radio 4 Farming Today.

Gabriel Hemery interview, BBC Radio 4 Farming Today

Gabriel Hemery (centre) and Nigel Fisher being interviewed by Ruth Sanderson at the University of Oxford’s Wytham Woods for BBC Radio 4 Farming Today, September 2015

Sylva CEO Gabriel Hemery arranged for the programme to visit the University of Oxford’s Wytham Woods, perhaps one of the most studied woodlands in the UK. It was an ideal location to discuss the subject of environmental change and how woodland owners can respond, especially given the breadth of research underway in the woodland.

BBC Radio 4 Farming Today

BBC Radio 4 Farming Today. Click to Listen Again.

Conservator Nigel Fisher joined Gabriel for a lively discussion about Wytham Woods, where Nigel revealed their visionary 100 year plan, together with approaches to immediate issues such as the inevitable arrival of ash dieback disease in the county.

You can listen to the programme again here.

If you haven’t already done so, please do try and find the time (15-20 minutes) to complete the survey:

Take the survey


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BBC woodland extravaganza celebrates opening of Sylva Wood Centre

posted on April 20, 2015

We were delighted to be part of the BBC Countryfile ‘Woodland Extravaganza’ programme broadcast on 19th April.

The work of our charity, including the newly-opened new Sylva Wood Centre, featured alongside many of our friends and partners who we work with on a daily basis including Confor, Small Woods, Birmingham Institute for Forestry Research and Woodland Trust.

BBC Countryfile presenter Anita Rani with Rodas Irving of Oxford Oak, outside the Sylva Wood Centre with the new thermally-modified sycamore cladding. Photo Gabriel Hemery.

BBC Countryfile presenter Anita Rani with Rodas Irving of Oxford Oak, outside the Sylva Wood Centre. They are standing in front of the new thermally-modified sycamore cladding, supported by Tyler Hardwoods and Grown in Britain. Photo Gabriel Hemery.

 

If you missed it, the programme is available to watch again via the BBC iplayer online

Also, read more on the BBC Countryfile web page


Sylva Wood Centre

read more about the Sylva Wood Centre


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Sylva Wood Centre to feature in BBC Countryfile

posted on April 15, 2015
BBC filming at the Sylva Wood Centre

BBC crew filming at the Sylva Wood Centre

We are excited to be featuring in the BBC One programme Countryfile this coming Sunday.

The programme, which will be broadcast at 19:00 on Sunday 19th April, is on the theme of Britain’s woodlands. Sylva’s CEO Gabriel Hemery is interviewed among beautiful woodland at the Oxford University Harcourt Arborteum, while two of our first tenants moving into the Sylva Wood Centre also feature.

Rodas Irving of Oxford Oak talks about the installation of the thermally-modified hardwood cladding (read more) at the Sylva Wood Centre, which is being applied thanks to the support of Grown in Britain. Simon Clements, another of our new tenants, talks about moving from his current workshop to our exciting new venue, where we are fostering skills and innovation in home-grown wood.

Read more on the BBC Countryfile website


More about the programme from the BBC Countryfile website:

In this themed programme Ellie Harrison, John Craven and Anita Rani explore Britain’s woodlands. Ellie is high up in the canopy with the scientists collecting leaf buds to learn more about the effects of CO2 on woodland. She then helps release some hedgehogs, one of the nations’ favourite and most-threatened woodland species, back into the wild. John finds out what it takes to manage your own woodland and discovers that the return of the old craft of coppicing is proving a boom to wildlife. He also joins the conservationists using novel methods to increase the dormice populations in Shropshire’s woods. And Anita discovers how to build with baked wood – using a new technique that hardens and weatherproofs timbers making them much more durable and better for building with. Adam Henson has the third and final of the Countryfile’s Farming Heroes nominees. The biggest threat to British trees is disease – and in many cases there’s no cure. Tom Heap investigates the threats to our woodland and finds out what we can all do to defend our trees.

Wood innovation

Sylva Wood CentreAnita Rani is in Oxfordshire, with the Sylva Foundation, as they open their brand new Wood Centre for the very first time.  Anita joins Rodas as he finishes the cladding on the building, which is made from thermally treated British ash and sycamore.  This treatment makes the wood more durable, allowing it to be used more widely.  Anita meets with one of the new tenants of the Wood Centre, sculptor Simon Clements, who is taking his inspiration from the quivering leaves of the woodland canopy.


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Talking trees and forests with BBC Arts Editor Will Gompertz

posted on October 27, 2014
BBC Radio Oxford

Gabriel Hemery on BBC Radio Oxford

On Sunday our Chief Executive Gabriel Hemery was interviewed by BBC Arts Editor Will Gompertz on BBC Radio Oxford. He talked about forests and the work of the Sylva Foundation, and The New Sylva book which was released in the US last week.

“It’s terrific to have a wood evangelist on the show!” Will Gompertz, BBC Arts Editor

You can listen to the programme on the BBC website for one week only (fast forward to 1:08)


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Wood and Trees – War and Remembrance

posted on July 2, 2014
BBC Radio 3 - Free Thinking

BBC Radio 3 – Free Thinking

Sylva CEO Dr Gabriel Hemery joined artists Paul Gough and Gail Ritchie to discuss, with presenter Samira Ahmed, the meaning of trees and wood in war and peacetime for BBC Radio 3′s Free Thinking.

Discussions ranged from Paul Nash’s paintings of blasted tree stumps in the first world war and the army’s amazing periscope trees, to today’s commemorative planting initiatives. James Taylor from the Imperial War Museum also shared some fascinating insights into the role of wood in the Great War.

The programme was broadcast on 1st July but is available on the BBC website to listen again.

Category: Media Coverage
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Celebrating 350 years of John Evelyn’s Sylva

posted on March 13, 2014
Nature - In Retrospect: Sylva

Nature – In Retrospect: Sylva

Sylva CEO Gabriel Hemery has written an article celebrating the 350th anniversary of John Evelyn’s 1664 Sylva. It was published today in Nature, the international weekly journal of science.

Read the article here

Hemery, G (2014) In retrospect: Sylva. Nature, 507, 166–167, (13 March 2014), doi:10.1038/507166a


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