Moving Forward from Ash Dieback

The threat to Scotland’s landscape from a rampant plant disease comes under the spotlight today (Thursday) when leading environment experts gather at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) to flag-up the implications of – and the efforts required to manage - Chalara fraxinea, commonly known as ash dieback.

A fungal pathogen that has already caused widespread loss of ash in mainland Europe, Chalara has reached Scotland and threatens the country’s 10 million+ ash trees. It was because of this – and threats from other serious tree diseases - that the Scottish Government called for the formation of the Scottish Tree Health Advisory Group (STHAG). This consortium of key experts, with its remit to gather information, provide advice and develop action plans, will today encourage further debate at the formal launch of the exhibition “Moving Forward from Ash Dieback”. This is now on view at RBGE’s John Hope Gateway visitor centre, Glasgow Botanic Gardens, and the Glentress Forest cafe.

The exhibition will tour Scotland explaining the implications of the disease and engaging members of the public in a mighty countryside damage limitation exercise. Professor Pete Hollingsworth, Director of Science at RBGE explained: “In Scotland ash is one of our most common tree species, and the potential impacts of the disease go well beyond the trees themselves. Ash woods are important to the insects and birds that rely on the habitat they provide and are also home to hundreds of species of lichens, mosses and liverworts, many of which are internationally significant in terms of conservation status.”

“Our aim is to encourage people in Scotland to be aware of the widespread threats from ash dieback and join us in the drive to protect our trees and woodlands. As part of this, the exhibition will be travelling to 28 venues around the country. You can find out more about the venues by going to the RBGE website, and also check out our podcasts and the excellent two-minute animated film, by Red Kite Animation, depicting the arrival of ash dieback and how it will influence Scottish woodlands.”

Voicing his support for the exhibition, STHAG chairman David Henderson-Howart, who is Deputy Director of Forestry Commission Scotland, also commented on the wider implications: "The public profile of tree health has increased enormously as a result of Chalara dieback of ash, but sadly it is only one of a number of serious tree health problems we are facing in Scotland. And, as these diseases are probably here to stay, we must learn how to live with them. Our Scottish Tree Health Advisory Group has already developed action plans for Chalara, Dothistroma needle blight on pine and Phytophthora ramorum on larch. 

“Looking ahead, we should remember that we are not alone in facing these challenges. As an island, Britain has been very lucky in being protected from many of the forest pests and diseases that other countries have had to deal with for many years.  While our scientists can help us understand the diseases, we are also grateful to everyone who is interested in trying to prevent spread. This RBGE exhibit on "Moving Forward from Ash Dieback" is a great example of what can be done to explain to people what the problems are, and how we can tackle them.”

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a charity (registration number SC007983)