Ash Dieback-Information for Landowners

Guidance and recommendations regarding information on how to address the issues surrounding Ash dieback have been difficult to find. It is clear now, that based on research and evidence from Denmark and Poland that we can expect the rapid decline and eventual death of at least 90% of the UK’s Ash forest along with our roadside Ash trees.

 Impact

The initial signs of the disease are leaf loss and in younger trees lesions to the stem. During the first few years of infection, theses symptoms do not appear to be a significant detriment to the tree.

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However, as the disease advances it becomes clear that the affected tree is unable to recover. Heavy branch loss and considerable dieback become more evident. The physiological processes begin to fail and are unable to sustain the tree’s health.

 

Secondary infections: i.e: Honey Fungus, become a serious threat to tree health and stability as the affected tree is unable to form any resilience.

 

The disease and the associated secondary infections cause the rapid decline in timber quality and tree stability.

It is important to recognise that as the degradation of the diseased trees continues then harvesting/felling costs will increase considerably due to the increased risk to machinery and operators felling dead/unstable trees.

Planning

For landowners with a significant Ash element to their woodland, and areas of high usage, the threat of this disease poses a significant risk around management and income planning.

 

Currently, timber markets are relatively buoyant and there is an opportunity to eliminate these associated risks without a substantial loss to any planned revenue from woodland operations. In the early stages of infection from Ash Dieback the affected tree remains quite stable. However, in the advanced stages timber degradation causes a loss of structural stability and timber quality. It is therefore advised that action is taken sooner rather than later.

 

Prompt action will not only take advantage of current market values but also eliminate any risk of liability for landowners.

 Management Opportunities

Firstly, doing nothing should not an option.

 

Where there is a clear management objective to generate an income from the woodland resource, then prompt action should be taken while the timber is of a saleable/valuable quality. Presently, the markets for quality saw-log, firewood and biomass remain positive.

 

Along with the current grant aid available for restocking areas of felled diseased Ash, landowners should see a positive financial return if prompt action is taken.

 

Where there are issues of liability with trees abounding highways and areas of high usage, then landowners have a “duty of care” to remove any associated risks. It is advised that urgent action is taken on the basis that these trees will represent a threat to life.

 Summary

Timing is vital. Plan your actions now to safeguard our landscape and the UK’s woodland.

Pictures taken in notably wet SSSI woodland known as the Wilderness (West Berkshire). Taken September 2019

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