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Devon's trees under serious threat from ash dieback disease

Credit: ITV West Country
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More than ninety per cent of ash trees in Devon could be wiped out by ash dieback disease, according to research by the county's wildlife trust.

Experts at the Devon Wildlife Trust say the outbreak is unstoppable. This week has seen them cutting back affected trees at one of their reserves at Dunsford in the Teign Valley.

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It is going to have a devastating impact on ash trees in the landscape. Once they are at a certain point of decline then we really need to take action in those locations that are high risk.

– Nathan Robinson, Woodland Management Officer, Devon

Around 1 in 5 trees in the wooded area of Dunsford are ash and are likely to be affected by the fungus that stifles their breathing system, preventing the flow of nutrients.

Dieback is easiest to spot in summer, making it difficult to look for the tell tale signs at this time of year.

The first outbreak was discovered in Devon in 2012. There had been hopes then it could be controlled but the disease is now rife after the spread of fungal spores.

Devon Wildlife Trust is being selective about how much of each tree is taken down to ensure they still support other wildlife and woodland vegetation.

The charity is planting new trees at other effected sites, however they are aware that the devastating disease is still to run its full course.

We are close to two million trees that could potentially be affected. Possibly over ninety percent of these trees we could lose over the coming years.

– Nathan Robinson, Woodland Management Officer, Devon
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During the summer it is easy to spot the symptoms of dieback, with trees wilting and blackened leaves. Another sign is diamond shape lesions on the bark and black, crinkly leaves.

The disease spread from plants being imported from abroad but has now taken hold in the natural ash population that surrounds Devon - including hedgerows and neighbouring woodlands.

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According to experts from The Woodland Trust it threatens to wipe out more than 95% of Britain's native ash species, and radically change the landscape across the South West.

Communities, organisations and individuals across Devon have been joining forces to take action on ash dieback and protect their woodland.

To avoid the spread of dieback the trust advises the following steps:

  • Clean your shoes before and after visiting a wood.
  • Avoid taking cuttings or plant material from the countryside.
  • Wash your car or bike wheels to remove mud or plant matter.
Credit: ITV West Country