The ash tree. Image: The TImes
(Click for high quality) Map: Ash tree dieback in the UK. Image: Forestry Commission

The ash tree is once again in serious danger—this time not from the borer, but from the detected fungus chalara fraxinea. Recent figures show that in at least 155 sites within Britain, chalara fraxinea has caused severe leaf loss that results in destruction of the trees crowns, all within the time frame of 2012. Even more alarming, the trend appears stark with already 90 percent of ash trees destroyed in Denmark. It is predicted that the fungal spores are spreading through wind and that the disease can travel 50 miles a day.

Chalara, widely prominent in Europe, needs high dosage to infect trees produced from infected dead leaves. Fortunately, spores are unlikely to spread through dispersal by animals or clothing.

Even so, infection by chalara can occur for any type of ash and this is a serious issue because ash trees consists of nearly a third of the wild deciduous woodland. The trees provide crucial habitats for many species that solely depend on the ash, some of which are rare including bat colonies, many birds, and lichens.

Recently, conservationists have been working with the government to implement strategies to control the disease, according to The Guardian. Because of the rapidly spreading spores, firebreaks that buffer the disease would not be effective. The goal is to give enough time to identify strains resistant to chalara fraxinea, which could lead to a possible breeding program aided by the quick reproduction of ash. But for now, there is no known cure for the fungus and trees after infection. There is, however, the hope that if there were survivors in the Denmark epidemic, there will be some in Britain too.

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