A new fungal disease is attacking our beautiful ash trees (Fraxinus excelsior) here in Britain. My fellow blogger skepticalsquirrel tells us about ash dieback disease. This disease might decimate ashes as Dutch elm disease (Ophiostoma ulmi)decimated elms (Ulmus spp.) in the 1970s. Oh me oh my.
I’ll write about the ash when it comes around in my Ogham series next spring but ash dieback needs attention right now. In fact as skepticalsquirrel says, it needed attention months ago.
[Edit 31st Oct] The import ban is in place but I think it may be too little, too late.
I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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One of my concerns, which I did not get round to putting in my post, is that it is now autumn, so the leaves are falling from the trees. This means any fungal spores will be over-wintering in the leaf litter, and we will not know the extent until spring.
Are the biology and transmission well understood, then?
My understanding is that it is fairly well known. I know you have journal access, so will be able to access this article here. I could not find the pdf for it as you can with many journal articles. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1087184512001582
The problem is, that the infected leaves from this year will be shed during autumn, where the fungus will be effectively dormant until spring, where the new generation will form. The little mushrooms grow, then spread their spores via the wind. As these are on ash leaves from the previous year, they are in the vicinity of other ash trees, which enables the spread of infection
The unknown is why this form of the fungus has emerged. The non-pathogenic form H.albidus has been about for a long time, but H.pseudoalbidus is new. The discussion about that is very interesting (to a geeky person like me at least!)
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Thank you. Yes it’s v interesting. Definitely an academic paper, though. This is the kind of thing that makes me feel good about writing popsci. Are you gestating a popsci review about ash dieback? Or is there one already?
ps Oh yes, you’ve just written that review on your WP blog! Thanks for it.
I heard a radio news item which suggested that this was known of as long ago as February and that there has been criticism of the Government for failing to act sooner. I’ve found an online article about it :- http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2223985/Ash-tree-disease-threatens-British-forest-ministers-slow-act-news.html
Thank you for this link. I notice that while Mr Cotterell of the Country Land and Business Association (CLBA) does complain of the Govt’s slow response, he says it wouldn’t have made much difference to ban imports in Spring 2012.
I notice also that while this disease was settling in here, Caroline Spelman was replaced by Owen Paterson as Secretary of State. It may be true that the civil servants are the ones who really run the show, but now they’ll be saying ‘Yes Minister’ to a different face.