A four-point plan to fight ash dieback, the deadliest threat to the UK’s trees since Dutch Elm disease, has been launched in Leicestershire.
Ash dieback was first recorded in the UK in 2012, with only a small fraction of trees proving resistant.
The Tree Council, Fera Science Limited, and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) have devised the plan.
The Ash Dieback Action Plan Toolkit brings together guidance and case studies from local authorities already tackling the issue.
More than £5 million has already been set aside by Leicestershire County Council.
A report in the summer said that the majority of the 500,000 or so ash trees in the county could be lost to ash dieback over the next five to 15 years.
The plan calls for an army of volunteers to track, report and help replant the at-risk trees.
The plan will raise awareness and help councils create local action plans. It will also identify best practice for managing non-woodland trees and advise on recovery and creation of alternative treescapes.
Sara Lom, CEO of The Tree Council, said:
“It’s essential we support local authorities to manage the risks posed by the death of ash trees throughout the country.
“We want our volunteer tree wardens to work with local authorities to help monitor and report on diseased trees and support replanting efforts.”
Defra’s Chief Plant Health Officer Nicola Spence, who announced £6m has been spent on research, said:
“This toolkit draws together practical guidance from that body of research and from the local authorities.
“We believe this will help all authorities develop responses to the threat at a local level.”
Blake Pain, lead member for environment and transport at Leicestershire County Council, said developing the plan: “has enabled us to understand the potential scale and level of risk that the disease poses across Leicestershire
“This will allow us to prioritise resource where needed, and tailor our approach as we learn more about the disease.”
Mortality rates of up to 85% have recently been reported on some sites across Europe.
But, a small proportion of trees are showing tolerance to the disease. Defra are funding research which may allow tolerant UK ash trees to be bred for the future.