Experts say little can be done to stop the spread of 'Ash dieback' the disease threatening to devastate the UK's ash trees.
One of the UK's biggest tree growers will seek damages from the government after losing thousands of trees to ash dieback disease.
The disease threatening to wipe out the majority of Britain's ash trees may have spread - as experts say an import ban was too slow.
There are now 155 cases of the deadly tree disease, ash dieback, across Great Britain, according to the Government.
Defra minister David Heath gave MPs an update on the situation in the House of Commons today. He said:
As of today the results of that survey show 155 cases of ash dieback caused by Chalara across Great Britain, 15 of these are in nursery stock, 55 are in recently planted sites and 85 are in the wider environment.
Further suspect cases are currently under investigation and we'll continue to provide updates on confirmed cases through the Forestry Commission website.
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson says there are a range of diseases which could threaten the countryside. He says a new attitude is needed to help tackle them.
The government has unveiled its new plan to tackle the ash tree disease Chalara after an emergency meeting this morning:
- Newly-planted diseased trees and diseased trees in nurseries will be traced and destroyed, as once young trees are infected they succumb quickly
- Mature trees will not currently be removed, as they are valuable to wildlife, take longer to die and can help us learn more about genetic strains that might be resistant to the disease. Infection does not occur directly from tree to tree
- Better understanding of the disease will be built through research and surveys, which will look not only for diseased trees but for those that show signs of genetic resistance to Chalara
- The search for the disease will include trees in towns and cities.
Foresters, land managers, environment groups and the general public will also be informed about how to identify diseased trees and those likely to be resistant to the disease, and know what to do if they find a diseased tree.
The government's crisis committee, known as COBRA, is meeting this morning as ministers prepare to publish an action plan to tackle ash dieback disease. It now threatens 80 million trees in Britain with 115 confirmed cases.
The Government is set to publish an action plan today for tackling a disease which threatens to devastate the UK's ash trees.
The plan to deal with Chalara ash dieback will be outlined after Environment Secretary Owen Paterson chairs a second meeting of the Government's emergency committee to agree how best to deal with the problem.
The Chalara fraxinea fungus, which causes leaf loss and crown dieback and can lead to tree death in ash trees, has wiped out 90% of ash trees in some parts of Denmark and is becoming widespread throughout central Europe.
Trees infected with ash dieback disease have been found in a private woodland in Wales.
The Forestry Commission has confirmed that the first case of ash dieback disease has been found in Oxfordshire.
At Arger Fen in Suffolk, staff managing the 119 acre ancient woodland had suspicions of the arrival of ash dieback. It was confirmed that about 35 acres of saplings are infected yesterday.
The Wildlife Trust's site manager for West Suffolk, Will Cranstoun, is responsible for 12 woodlands and he is worried it will be impossible to prevent the spread.
"This site is almost unique in Suffolk as it has a large acre of naturally regenerating ash.
"It is that area which is infected and, if it is wiped out, it will fundamentally change this landscape for hundreds of years to come.
"If it spreads to some of the older ash, we will be losing trees with real history with some of them dating back as much as 300 years."
The Woodland Trust, which is attending today's summit on ash dieback, has unveiled a three point plan to tackle tree disease, which includes implementing a project to bring scientists and the public together to monitor the UK's trees and woods.
– Woodland Trust chief executive Sue Holden said
We are committed to tackling the growing threat of all tree pests and diseases in the UK and, by publishing this plan, we will continue to lead the fight for the future of our trees and woods.
The situation regarding ash dieback is a sad reflection of the degree of priority that has been given to the protection and safeguarding of our natural woodland resources and of the environment as a whole.
This must be immediately addressed.