Due to Covid-19, we have reduced personnel at the offices of the Sylva Foundation and our premises at the Sylva Wood Centre. Emails and phone messages are being checked but please allow a little longer than usual to receive a response.
Please do not arrange a formal visit without first checking with us. Members of the public are free to enjoy our network of permitted paths through the Future Forest as usual.

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What Future for our Iconic Oak?

posted on June 14, 2021

Forest managers and others with an interest in trees are invited to share their knowledge and expertise with a team of researchers who are aiming to discover how declining health is affecting trees across the UK, and to understand views on possible new treatments.

Future Oak project

Future Oak project

The survey is part of the Future Oak research project, led by Bangor University, and is investigating the health of oak trees in the UK. Our native oak species are increasingly under-pressure from a variety of pests, pathogens, and changes to the landscape and climate. The project focuses particularly on Acute Oak Decline (AOD) and will explore the role of micro-organisms in this disease.

The research team believes that without careful study, we will be ill-equipped to meet the challenges our forests face over the next century. Only by understanding both the science of tree response to pests, pathogens, and climate change; and the current management knowledge base and practices can we hope to counter these threats and build the resilience our woodlands require. Research of this nature is critical in developing our understanding of the issues facing oak in the UK, but without the support of Forest Managers its practical application will be limited.

Ultimately, understanding forest manager perspectives is critical to the design and deployment of any solution to tree health problems.

Please take part in the BWS2021

BWS2021

BWS2021


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Pioneering project to safeguard our iconic oaks launched

posted on March 12, 2021

The FUTURE OAK project, comprising scientists at Bangor University, Aberystwyth University, Forest Research and Sylva Foundation, will study how oak microbiomes are affected by environmental change and disease.

FUTURE OAK logo

Visit the Future Oak website

The UK is home to around 170 million oak trees, and more ancient oak trees than the rest of Europe combined. Native oak support over 2000 species of insects, birds, mammals, and fungi, but climate change, human activity, and outbreaks of tree disease are affecting the health of our forests. Acute Oak Decline (or AOD) poses a significant threat to our native oak trees. Trees with AOD are weakened by environmental stresses, like drought, and several different bacteria cause the inner bark tissue to rot. Bark-boring beetles also feed on the inner bark of weakened trees, further increasing bacterial activity. Eventually, the outer bark cracks, releasing fluid from the rotting inner tissue and causing the distinctive stem ‘bleeds’ that are observed on trees affected by AOD.

Like humans, trees have trillions of microbes living on and inside them. This collection of microbes and the part of the plant where they are active is called the ‘microbiome’. Microbiomes are important for plant and animal health – they provide nutrients for growth, regulate immune systems, and protect against pathogens. Beneficial microbes in a tree’s microbiome are essential for fighting diseases.

Prof. James McDonald, the project leader explained:

“The FUTURE OAK project will analyse hundreds of native oaks across Britain to understand which microbes promote health and fight diseases. We’ll then test the ability of these microbes to suppress bacteria which cause disease. This will help us to develop biocontrol treatments for the oak microbiome, to promote healthier trees and suppress the symptoms of AOD. Working with forest managers, we’ll seek to understand how microbiomes fit with established understandings of tree health, and how our research can help.”

Safeguarding our iconic oaks

Prof McDonald added:

“We are delighted to receive funding for this project, and look forward to working with land-owners and forest managers to safeguard our iconic oaks and the ecosystems they provide for future generations.”

Chief Plant Health Officer, Nicola Spence, said:

“It is vital we do all we can to protect our oak trees for future generations. The FUTURE OAK research project will play an important role in finding solutions to make this iconic tree species more resilient. This project is supported by Action Oak – a pioneering, collaborative partnership which is raising funds for ambitious research projects such as FUTURE OAK.”

The research is supported by £1.3M of funding from the Bacterial Plant Diseases programme funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), Defra and Scottish Government and is also supported by Action Oak.

Visit the Future Oak website to find out more


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Living Ash Project – securing the future for ash trees in Britain

posted on November 13, 2013
Living Ash Project

Living Ash Project

Today sees the launch of the Living Ash Project – a Defra-funded consortium of Earth Trust, Future Trees Trust, Sylva Foundation and Forest Research – aiming to identify ash trees with good tolerance to Chalara ash die-back, to sample these trees for further breeding work, and to make this material quickly available to industry.

There are an estimated 120 million ash trees in Britain’s woodlands and hedgerows. Evidence from Denmark, where Chalara ash die-back is more prevalent, indicates that approximately 1% of trees show good resistance to the disease.

While natural selection in some woodlands could enable resistant regeneration, the identification of resistant trees is needed as the basis for a genetically diverse and resilient population for future productive woodland planting.  Quickly identifying resistant trees and using them in a breeding programme will enable us to rapidly produce resilient trees.

The Living Ash Project aims to secure ash trees for the future that show resistance to Chalara ash die-back. It is important that a good proportion of trees that make it through a screening programme will be suitable for timber production to ensure a continued supply of this valuable product for the future. The project partners have been working on breeding ash for improved timber characteristics for over twenty years and in this time have assembled a substantial collection of ash trees from across ash’s native range which has great genetic diversity.

Sylva’s CEO Dr Gabriel Hemery said:

“Sylva’s main role in the project will be to work with members of the public, including woodland owners, who we want to report the presence of healthy trees.” He continued, “We will be announcing details soon about a national ash tree survey, which we hope people across Britain will get involved in: after-all, the future of our ash rests in all our hands.”

The Living Ash Project incorporates work programmes to:-

i)                   identify individual trees that show good tolerance of Chalara ash die-back

ii)                  screen these individuals using genetic markers developed by other Defra funded research

iii)                secure material from these trees in archives for further breeding purposes

iv)                develop techniques for rapid production of tolerant trees for deployment to the forestry sector

 

Project leader Dr Jo Clark from Earth Trust said:

“This is a great example of charities and government agencies such as Forest Research working together to address what is probably the biggest issue facing our woodlands today. Earth Trust, Sylva Foundation and Future Trees Trust together have dozens of partners and supporters across the forestry sector, all of whom will be getting involved in the awareness, screening and identification work.”

Defra’s Chief Plant Health Officer Martin Ward said:

““We know we can’t eradicate Chalara but the Living Ash project offers  a real solution in dealing with the disease.  Britain’s woodlands are constantly evolving but projects like this one will ensure that ash trees have a place in the woodlands of the future.”

In total, including in-kind contributions from the many partners, the project will cost approximately £1.2M and will take six years to complete.


Information can be found on the project website www.livingashproject.org.uk 


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Ash dieback discovered in Dorset

posted on August 22, 2013
close up of Chalara fraxinea lesion on young ash coppice stem

close up of Chalara fraxinea lesion on young ash coppice stem

In the week that AshTag relaunched to enable citizens to report both healthy and diseased ash trees Chalara fraxinea or ash dieback, was discovered in a thirteenth county in England. The latest county, Dorset, joins Cambridgeshire, Devon, East Sussex, Essex, Kent, Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Northumberland, Suffolk, Surrey, West Sussex and Yorkshire.

According to Defra the disease has now been confirmed in 557 sites including 198 locations in the wider environment. Chalara was discovered in England’s woodland last Autumn as a result of the intensive survey carried out of sites across the UK where ash trees are known to be present. It is also found in sites across Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, although most of these currently are on sites planted (unknowingly) with diseased trees in recent years.

On a recent Good Woods visit to a woodland in south east England, a new case was discovered by one of our advisors. It had previously gone unnoticed by the owner, and only came to light during the visit as a management advice was being drawn up.


Further information


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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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Chalara fraxinea – advice for woodland owners

posted on November 8, 2012

The outbreak of Chalara fraxinea in the British countryside is very major story that cannot have escaped anyone’s notice. Infected sites currently total 115, distributed from SE England, East Anglia and the Midlands, to Scotland, to Wales.

Through the myForest Service, Sylva supports currently some 700 woodland owners who manage about 15,000 hectares of woodlands across Britain. We encourage all woodland owners to keep abreast of a very fluid situation in terms of current status of the outbreak and advice from Government and scientists and how we should all respond. The best place to keep informed is via the Forestry Commission webpage: http://www.forestry.gov.uk/chalara. Meanwhile, Sylva offers the following advice to woodland owners:

  1. Inspect ash trees in your woodland without delay. Before the winter winds remove all leaves, those infected by Chalara can be quite obvious in that they persist after those that drop as usual in the Autumn (see image). On young trees, coppice regrowth or other regeneration the lesions can be quite easy to spot. On older wood they are less clear. Dieback in the canopy may be possible to spot during the dormant season but it is easy to miss.
  2. If you believe that you have Chalara fraxinea in your woodland contact the Forestry Commission without delay.  The Forestry Commission are treating C. fraxinea as a ‘quarantine’ plant pathogen, which means that they may use emergency powers to contain or eradicate it when it is found. This is being done in the form of Statutory Plant Health Notices which they serve on affected owners requiring them to remove and destroy affected plants by burning or deep burial on site. This situation may change in time.
  3. Where possible implement rigorous biosecurity measures. Follow the advice of the Forestry Commission’s Biosecurity Measures.
  4. In terms of minimising the impact of the pathogen on ash trees within an infected woodland, current thinking is that the removal and burning of ash leaf litter may reduce the prevalence of the pathogen next year. This may be a practical action in high value sites, such as important biodiversity areas, parklands, garden trees or perhaps notable ancient trees. In larger ash stands clearly this may not be practicable.
  5. Felling of diseased trees. Advice is not yet clear on this issue. Note that finding resistant trees in the ‘wild’ will be very important in creating the foundation for a new population of trees resistant to the pathogen. Felling all ash trees in infected woodlands therefore, cannot be recommended.
  6. Before transporting ash wood, check the Forestry Commission webpage for the latest advice.

Over the coming weeks the Government’s taskforce will be bringing together experts to build up a picture of the current status and the appropriate measures that we should be taking to try and reduce the impact of this devastating pathogen. Our Chief Executive, Dr Gabriel Hemery, is taking an active role in the taskforce and we will be providing up-to-date information here when available.

Photographs taken by Gabriel Hemery during the expert taskforce
visit to Wayland Wood in Norfolk earlier this week.


Further information


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