A deadly disease which kills Ash trees has been found in the National Forest in Leicestershire. Ash Dieback, as it's known, is a fungus which causes leaf loss and can lead to the death of the tree.
There are fears that if the disease takes hold in the Forest's Ash population, up to two million trees could wither and die.
Ash Dieback disease has been found at three sites between Albert Village and Moira, near Swadlincote.
The latest from the Forestry Commission indicates 16 sites across the region are affected by the disease. 14 of these are trees that were recently planted, while the other two sites, one on the Leicestershire/Derbyshire border and the other near Peterborough, are much older trees.
Phil Brewster interviews Sophie Churchill, the Chief Executive of the National Forest Company. She says we will "have some gaps in the woods" as ash trees make up around an eighth of the forest's trees.
ITV News Central have been to the location of an outbreak of ash dieback in Leicestershire. The disease is a major blow for the National Forest, as up to 20% of all trees there are ash.
Ash dieback causes ash trees to initially lose their leaves. Without leaves the trees cannot access sunlight which provides the plant with nutrients to grow.
– Catherine Graham-Harrison, Chair of the National Forest Company
We are saddened to learn of the arrival of Ash dieback in The National Forest. The Ash is usually a very robust Midlands tree, prominent in our hedgerows and woodlands. We must hope that the more resilient trees survive and breed new generations of trees which withstand the disease.
The first cases of the tree disease Ash Dieback have been found within Leicestershire's National Forest. Trees ranging from five to seventeen years old have been found to be affected at three sites near to Albert Village in North West Leicestershire.
Ash Dieback now affects more than 550 locations across the country. It is estimated that Ash forms 15 – 20% of The National Forest tree stock which equates to in excess of 1.5 million trees which could be affected by the disease.
Ash dieback was first observed in Poland in 1992 and has since spread to 21 European countries. There is no known cure for the airborne fungal disease.
Ash trees are a key component of Britain's ecologically unique woodlands and their loss could have a dramatic negative impact on the natural environment.