North Somerset nature reserves’ trees face extinction from disease

PUBLISHED: 16:00 02 October 2020

90 per cent of Ash Trees in Jubile Stone and Badgers Woods show signs of Die Ashback disease.

90 per cent of Ash Trees in Jubile Stone and Badgers Woods show signs of Die Ashback disease.

Ian Chambers

Backwell Environment Trust (BET) estimates that 90 per cent of ash trees on its two nature reserves will die due to ash dieback disease.

Ash trees make up a third of the trees within Jubile Stone and Badgers Wood – meaning the disease will have a profound effect on the village reserves.

Reserve manager, Ian Chambers believes there is little BET can do to prevent this.

He said: “The sad thing is that there is nothing that can be done now to stop the spread of this devastating disease.

“It will make huge changes to the Backwell landscape and the cost of making diseased trees safe will be very high.”

The most noticeable symptom of die ashback is bare, leaf-less branches at the top of the infected tree which then spreads through the entire tree canopy.

Young trees have much less resistance to the disease, dying reasonably quickly whereas older trees can survive for a few years before dying.

Ian added: “However, a small percentage of trees do seem to have some immunity to the disease and ash trees are renowned for producing large numbers of seedlings so there is a chance that over the next few

decades, our ash trees will return and be one of the dominant trees in our woodlands once again.”

The disease, also known as chalara is caused by a fungus which affects the vascular system of ash trees, inhibiting the tree’s ability to draw nutrients up into its upper branches.

Ian Chambers estimates the cost of making North Somerset’s ash trees safe will run into ‘many millions of pounds’ – something he does not expect the district’s council to afford.

North Somerset Council’s executive member for the environment, Bridget Petty, who also represents Backwell for the authority, said: “The land that BET manages is not owned by North Somerset Council so we

will not be involved in the management of ash dieback.

“The council is still investigating the best course of action in response to the disease, the verges and highways where people are at higher risk will have to be managed.”

BET is raising money to maintain the reserves and remove the dead trees. To support the appeal, log on to www.backwellenvironmenttrust.org


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