What is Ash Dieback (ADB) Disease? Ash dieback disease (ADB) refers to the deterioration and frequent death of ash trees caused by the fungus hymenoscyphus fraxineus. The fungus spreads via spores released from infected leaves which have fallen to the ground. It was first identified in the UK in 2012.
How serious is it? In mainland Europe, which has had ADB for much longer than the UK, millions of ash trees have been killed, and some countries have lost 95% of their ash. At present there is no cure – it appears that the fate of any individual ash tree depends on how heavily it is inundated by spores and, critically, how much genetic resistance it has. Although much research is being carried out, plant breeders have not yet produced any ash seedlings which have reliable resistance.
How can I tell if a tree has got it? An ash tree suffering from ADB will initially lose some of its leaves, especially at the end of branches. Small lesions will develop on twigs and shoots, and often the bark on young growth will take on a straw-like appearance. If the symptoms progress further, branches will die and fall off. What was a healthy, full crown can within 12 months become patchy and very brittle. Some trees will decline further, attacked by annual reinfection by spores from fallen leaves, and will completely die and ultimately break up or fall over.
What is Sompting Estate doing about it? Sompting Estate greatly values its stock of ash trees. It is probably our most common tree and is found all over the Estate. We also take the safety of residents and visitors very seriously, so we have devised a strategy of inspecting our ash trees twice a year for the foreseeable future and felling those which pose an unacceptable risk. We will retain ash wherever possible, not least because they are, at the moment, the only source of the next generation of ash.
During recent years, we have been diversifying our stock of trees. (This has also been in response to the threat of climate change.) You may notice that woodland and hedge plantings now feature beech, lime, hornbeam, oak, hazel, field maple and many others. None of these face threats on the same scale as ADB, at least at the moment.
What can I do about it? When on any part of the Estate, please keep to public rights of way, and be alert & careful of hazards. When we have to remove weak trees, please follow all signs and directions. If you see an ash tree which looks hazardous, please do contact us via the Contacts page on our website www.somptingestate.com.
We hope that the Estate can continue to be enjoyed to the same extent as before, regardless of how severe the impact of ADB turns out to be. There is more information on ADB on the Forestry Commission and Woodland Trust websites.