Alert over threat to borough's trees

By Ian Dipple Thursday 01 November 2012 Updated: 02/11 08:29

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ASH TREES across Redditch are being monitored for signs of a fungal infection which could wipe them from the borough's landscape.

There are currently no reported cases of chalara ash dieback in Worcestershire or Redditch but council bosses remain extremely concerned about the situation as infected trees have already been identified on 20 sites across the UK including public woodland. The disease kills about 90 per cent of the trees it infects.

Experts warn the outbreak could prove as disastrous as Dutch Elm Disease which killed 25million trees in the 1970s and 80s.

Guy Revans, head of environmental services at Redditch Borough Council, said they were following advice from the Forestry Commission which was leading the investigation and tracking of the disease.

"While there are not currently any reported or suspected cases in this part of the country, the recent outbreak of chalara is a major concern here as it is nationally because ash is a common tree across our local landscape," he said.

"As such we will not be planting any new ash trees until advice changes. We are also monitoring young planted ash as well as more established trees to look out for any of the signs of disease. While there are many other less serious causes of ash dieback, we are vigilant on chalara."

Worcestershire Wildlife Trust is also warning the loss of ash trees would have a devastating impact on the rare Brown Hairstreak butterfly, which has only recently established itself in the wider borough area.

The population has been rising across the county but particularly in the Forest of Feckenham and recent sightings have also been reported in Astwood Bank and Oakenshaw.

A spokeswoman for the charity said: "These butterflies are quite rare and we are lucky to have them in the county. We have been working with butterfly conservation to help try and expand their range and numbers and we have been doing really well. But ash trees are really important to them so if they started to die in the county it could see all that hard work dwindling away.

"Varied woodlands are fantastic because they can support a greater diversity of species so if a woodland in Worcestershire lost its ash trees the average person walking through might not notice an immense difference to the eye, but it would make a big difference to wildlife."

Signs a tree has been infected include bleeding sores and cankers on the bark and discolouration of the underlying sapwood. Sores often surround branches in the infected area of the tree causing the dieback of shoots, twigs, branches and smaller stems.

Visit www.forestry.gov.uk for more information.

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