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Sylva research influences policy and practice

posted on November 5, 2019

Our paper about financial cost of ash dieback, co-authored with former Oxford-Sylva scholar Louise Hill, continues to receive widespread political and popular interest.

£15 billion ash dieback costs paper

£15 billion ash dieback costs paper

In October it was cited by parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee, whose MPs have called for a ‘citizens’ army’ to tackle biosecurity risks from invasive non-native species –  read the report. Subsequently it gained interest in the mainstream media (e.g. The Guardian).

Read our post from May:  Ash Dieback is Predicted to Cost £15 Billion 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


About the Oxford-Sylva Scholarship

In 2010, Sylva Foundation managed to secure funding from a private donor to support forestry-related research. Following an approach to the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Oxford, a partnership was agreed where the university was able to match this funding with a number of smaller funds it already held in hand. The result was a number of very capable graduate scholars. Sadly, Sylva has been unable to secure funding to continue this very fruitful relationship, but we always welcome enquiries from potential donors to continue this work. Please contact our CEO Dr Gabriel Hemery.

Read more about the Oxford-Sylva Graduate Scholarship

 


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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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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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Help tackle ash dieback

posted on May 16, 2016

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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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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Help us secure the Sylva scholarship

posted on March 29, 2013
Read more about our Sylva Scholarship campaign

Read more about our Sylva Scholarship campaign

Sylva supports cutting-edge forest science in a partnership with the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Oxford by offering a scholarship to DPhil students. We are seeking donors to help us secure our next scholar and, additionally, to help us raise an endowment fund to secure the scholarship in perpetuity.

Our first scholar Kirsty Monk is due to complete her research later this year, investigating the role of cord-forming fungi in woodland (read more). Meanwhile, an excellent candidate has been identified to follow in Kirty’s footsteps in Autumn 2013, having a double 1st undergraduate degree from Oxford and a MSc from the University of East Anglia. The proposed research programme will focus on the ecosystem consequences of ash dieback (Chalara fraxinea) in British woodlands.

To secure our next scholar we need to add to our current funds by raising an additional £5,000 for each of the next three years. At the same time the University of Oxford is keen to support the creation of more fully-endowed scholarships. They offer currently a 40 percent match-fund with a view to securing a total fund of £500,000 that will secure a scholarship in perpetuity. This is an unrivaled opportunity to leave a lasting legacy. If you are interested in learning more about the scholarship programme and how you could support it, please contact our Chief Executive Dr Gabriel Hemery or visit our online fundraising page with the Big Give.


The theme of the scholarship is healthy trees and productive forests. This reflects a joint vision between the Sylva Foundation and University of Oxford Department of Plant Sciences to foster a robust tree and forest resource in the light of projected environmental change.   Read more about the Sylva Scholarship


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Chalara – advice to forest visitors

posted on November 13, 2012
Ash dieback Chalara fraxinea woodland posters

Download the ash dieback Chalara fraxinea posters from the Forestry Commission website

Following on from our recent advice to woodland owners relating to Chalara fraxinea, we wish to make woodland owners aware of some clear posters designed by the Forestry Commission targeted at forest visitors.

Two versions have been designed; one for owners with trees infected with Chalara fraxinea, the other for those with healthy trees.

To download the posters click on the images.

 


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Ash dieback – Chalara fraxinea

posted on October 10, 2012

UPDATE: ash dieback was confirmed today to be present in two woodlands in the East of England. These are the first confirmed cases of the fungal pathogen outside tree nurseries. 25th October 2012.

A devastating new disease affecting ash trees is now present in Britain.

Chalara fraxinea webpage

Chalara fraxinea information on the Forestry Commission website

A fungus called Chalara fraxinea (C. fraxinea) causes leaf loss and crown dieback in affected trees, and it can lead to tree death. It has devastated 90% of ash trees in Denmark, leading to concerns that the disease could have a similar impact on the British landscape as Dutch elm disease. It is likely that Defra will implement an import ban by November after calls from across the forestry sector.

Ash trees suffering from symptoms likely to be caused by C. fraxinea have  been found widely across Europe over the last 10 years. These have included forest trees, trees in urban areas such as parks and gardens, and also young trees in nurseries. Symptoms include the wilting of leaves and dieback. During the dormant winter period it can be hard to spot but black lessions on stems are tell-tale warning signs.

It was first reported in the UK in February 2012 after it was found in a consignment of infected trees sent from a nursery in the Netherlands. Over the Summer new cases were soon reported first in central England and soon after the north and east. It has been found also in four recently planted sites in Scotland.

C. fraxinea is being treated as a quarantine pest under national emergency measures, and it is important that suspected cases of the disease are reported. Visit the Forestry Commission webpage to find out more.

Read more about our work to combat tree pests and diseases at www.TreeWatch.com


Further information:


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