Ash dieback disease spreads through Yorkshire Dales

A tree with ash dieback disease. Photo: YDNPA.

Ash dieback disease has spread “phenomenally quickly” right across the Yorkshire Dales National Park, experts say.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s senior trees and woodlands officer, Geoff Garrett, says the disease is now widespread.

Infected young ash trees – with branches bare against the summer sky – can be seen on roadsides verges all around the park, as well as in woodlands, only six years after the first case of ash dieback was confirmed in the UK.

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Ancient semi-natural woodland covers about one per cent of the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

About 80 per cent of this woodland is made up of ash, making it the iconic tree of the Dales.

The national park authority has responded to the spread of ash dieback by removing ash from all tree-planting schemes.

There is currently no cure for the disease.

Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s senior trees and woodlands officer, Geoff Garrett inspects an ash tree.

Geoff Garrett said: “The confirmed arrival of ash dieback disease in 2012 prompted a spate of news coverage but many people won’t have heard much about it since then.  I think it’s important to raise awareness of how quickly the disease has spread.

“Ash is the dominant tree in the Park’s ancient woodlands, supporting a very special cohort of plants and animals.

“Over the next 20 years the disease is going to have a devastating impact, so much so that ash will likely become relatively minor in the landscape.

“Mature trees will take decades to die, but young trees are being killed off very quickly.

“There is little we can do to tackle the disease itself, but there is a lot we can do to manage the decline of ash trees by making sure that the spaces they leave are filled by other native trees.

“My expectation is that some ash trees will be resistant to the disease.  Important research is being carried out, not least by the Forestry Commission, to try to identify and develop ash trees that are most tolerant to the disease.”

For a more detailed account of the spread of ash dieback in the Park, read the authority’s  latest blog.