Ash dieback: Research, funding and policy news – 3 February 2014

4th Feb 2014

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UK Plant Health Risk Register

The UK Plant Health Risk Register is a major step in implementing the recommendations of the independent Task Force on Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity. It is a tool for government, industry and stakeholders to prioritise action against pests and diseases which threaten our crops, trees, gardens and countryside. The Register is publicly available.


Plant biosecurity strategy nears completion

Environment ministers have brought together a wealth of experience and expertise to help draft a new plant biosecurity strategy that will safeguard the future of the UK’s trees and plants against the threat of diseases like ash dieback.


China bans import of ash logs and sawnwood

The Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine office and the State Forestry Administration (SFA) jointly issued a notice advising that China has banned the import of Fraxnus (ash) logs and sawnwood from countries and regions in which Fraxnus die-back occurs.


The potential ecological impact of ash dieback in the UK

The purpose of this report is to provide supporting scientific information to help inform the policy makers, land managers and advisers involved in management of woodlands and trees so that potential impacts of ash dieback on biodiversity are appropriately understood and considered. This will help to promote management practices that will conserve and enhance biodiversity and the delivery of ecosystem services.


Sussex fungicides may help fight ash dieback

A new fungicide treatment developed at the University of Sussex is emerging as a weapon in the fight to inhibit growth of Chalara fraxinea, which causes ash dieback, according to initial trials at The Sainsbury Laboratory.


Survey of Plants and Lichens associated with Ash (SPLASH)

The spread of ash dieback disease has been widely publicized but, despite alarming reports from some European countries, its likely impact on the structure, function and biodiversity of UK woodlands remains unclear.The voluntary sector societies that record vascular plants (the BSBI), bryophytes (the BBS), and lichens (the BLS) therefore have a rare opportunity to help monitor the impact of a potentially landscape-altering disease. To date, no other European country has attempted to do this, although there have been national surveys to map the extent of the disease. These three societies are currently working with the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) on a Defra-funded initiative to pilot surveillance schemes designed to improve our capacity to monitor changes in the status of species within semi-natural habitats. There is potential to use this project to establish an approach to monitoring the biodiversity impacts of novel diseases such as ash dieback.


The ash dieback crisis: genetic variation in resistance can prove a long term solution

Over the last two decades, ash dieback has become a major problem in Europe, where the causative fungus has invaded the continent rapidly. Despite the presence of the disease for at least 10 years in Scandinavia, a small fraction of F. excelsior trees have remained vigorous, and these trees exhibit no or low levels of symptoms even where neighbouring trees are very sick.

This paper reviews the available data on disease dissemination, and the consequences thereof in terms of symptom severity and mortality, and appraises studies that have tested the hypothesis that less affected trees have genetically based resistance. We discuss the implications of the results for the adaptive potential of common ash to respond to the disease through natural or assisted selection. We consider the risks of adverse fitness effects of population fragmentation due to high mortality. Finally, we recommend that resistant trees (genotypes) should be selected to facilitate conservation of the species.

Chalara ash dieback resistance trials

In direct response to the emerging threat of Chalara, Forest Research (FR) and Defra have initiated a mass screening trial to identify inherent resistance in UK ash trees.


Tree death: ash dieback disease has now hit 115 Scots site

The tree disease ash dieback has now hit 115 sites across Scotland – and experts warn further spread of the problem is inevitable.


Ash disease found in Derbyshire

A further case of the tree disease Chalara, also known as ash dieback, has been confirmed in a woodland on the Derbyshire border, near Swadlincote.

Derbyshire is the 16th county in England where Chalara has been discovered in the wider environment (forests and woodland); the other counties are Dorset, Somerset, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Cambridgeshire, Kent, Surrey, West Sussex, East Sussex, Devon, Lincolnshire, Yorkshire, Leicestershire and Northumberland.


PhD studentship: The genomic basis of ash dieback tolerance

In partnership with the Forestry Commission’s research arm, Forest Research, this PhD project will exploit genomic technologies to accelerate the development of ash trees that can resist or tolerate ash dieback, caused by the fungal pathogen Hymenoscyphus pseudoalbidus.

The project will be co-supervised by Dr Richard Buggs, who led the NERC-funded British Ash Tree Genome Project at QMUL, and Dr Steve Lee, Programme Leader for Genetic Improvement at Forest Research. Genomic and transcriptomic approaches will be used to seek understanding of the genetic basis for patterns of tolerance/susceptibility of ash trees to ash dieback in large-scale plantations of ash carried out by Forest Research in 2013, funded by Defra.

Deadline: 17th February 2014


Recent post on the OpenAshDieback crowdsourcing hub:

Potential inhibition of a putative alternative oxidase identified in C. fraxinea reduces fungal growth in culture


If you have details of meetings, research, funding or policy news on ash dieback that you would like circulating, please email us.

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