The demise of the ash tree?

The Guardian ran a story today which stated that ash dieback and a beetle called the emerald oak borer was likely in the coming decades to wipe out Europe’s and the UK’s ash trees – see here. I have commented on this story before when I was reviewing Oliver Rackham’s book: the The Ash Tree – see here. I have also written about ash dieback before see here, herehere and here.

The Ash Tree
Oliver Rackham’s last book before he tragically died

Rackham Ash diebackRackham’s illustrations of the lifecycle of the two fungi involved with ash dieback

626-EmeraldAshBorer_lgThis is the emerald ash borer – a native of Asia but now imported to North America and spreading across Russia – it will prove fatal to ash trees in Europe (Fraxinus excelsior) – if it arrives / when it arrives.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

SSCN0845Ash flowering and coming into leaf

The report in the Guardian was based on a paper in the Journal of Ecology – ‘Biological Flora of the British Isles: Fraxinus excelsior’. The Biological Flora series of papers have been published for decades by the journal and provide a very detailed literature review of the ecology and  biology etc of individual species of British plants. You can download this paper by Peter Thomas of Keele University here. It tells you everything you need to know about ash trees and a great deal more!

Interestingly the Journal of Ecology also includes another paper on ash and ash dieback by Jessica Needham et al from Oxford University. Based on a study of the famous Wytham Woods near Oxford the paper models what the author believe will happen to the forest community in Britain as ash dieback increasingly takes hold. The paper suggests that ash has done well in recent decades out competing oak for light but as ash dieback stunts ash trees the sycamore (a non native) is likely to be the winning species. Again you can download that paper and read it yourself here.

Nature over the coming decades has a lot to contend with – new fungal diseases, new insect pests and of course climate change – our cherished countryside will change for ever and we’ve only got ourselves to blame.