The future of our ash trees is very uncertain, it has been estimated that, the majority of ash trees in UK woodlands infected with the ash dieback disease (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus fungus) will decline and die in the next 10 to 15 years. This will have a monumental impact on our landscapes and woodlands and may bring with it a decline in the biodiversity of many species that are largely dependent on Ash.
For those who are involved in the management of UK woodlands, there has been mixed advice, uncertainty and lack of clarity on what to do and how to act and research is regularly being changed and updated as scientists are finding out more about the disease.
The advice of what to do when faced with Ash Dieback has now been updated in a Forestry Commission document for any of those responsible for the management of Ash but unsure of how to deal with impacts in woodlands you own, manage or are involved in.
‘we strongly recommend that all owners of woodland containing ash prepare or amend management plans to describe how this species will be managed, including giving due consideration to which alternative tree species might be used for restocking where required’
Management choices may vary slightly depending on the individual’s management objectives i.e. timber production or biodiversity, and this document suggests possible strategies for each.
So, whilst the future of our Ash species seems dire, there remains some hope. It is possible that, by retaining trees with low levels of damage i.e. minimal crown damage and no root collar lesions, some tolerant regeneration may result.
‘the percentage of potentially tolerant trees is likely to be very low but with careful management these could regenerate, and the species could continue to exist at low levels in mixed stands. Encouraging multiple opportunities for regeneration (through a larger number of smaller interventions for example) will increase genetic “churn” and may result in more chances of tolerant trees emerging.’
Find out more information here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/741800/ON046.pdf