MatthewGirling's picture

Ash tree die back

Just had a thought and wondered if people disagree.

Ash die-back is just part of nature and the best thing to do is let it take its course. Some ashes will be resistant and they'll survive and reprodue. We might lose a species but we've gained one (the fungus Chalara fraxinea).

Evolution moves slowly but sometimes it jumps forward. We're fortunate to be around to witness one of these jumps!



John Pilkington's picture

Concern over Ash

I guess there might be at least 2 reasons why people might want to make an effort to preserve Ash rather than the fungus. Firstly, the Ash is probably aesthetically more pleasing to us than a fungus. In addition, the Ash, like other trees, presumably does more to preserve an environment that we can survive/thrive within than this fungus will.

It seems, too, that the Ash is only one of the trees that is currently under attack from fungi and disease, so the UK looks as if it will lose large numbers of different trees, just when we were hoping/working to extend tree coverage.

I am sure that professional botanists and environmentalists will have better answers.

With further thought, I'm not sure I understand the "jump in evolution" element of the suggestion. The fungus isn't conferring any new advantage to a species, or at least not one that I can see. Are you suggesting that the reduction in Ash numbers through "die-back" will create an opportunity for some other species to make a "leap forward"?

MatthewGirling's picture


The evolutionary jump will be the emergence or a fungal resistance in the common Ash. It will be a jump in evolutionary time scale rather than human timescale.

To save one species over another is to domesticate. I am playing the part of devil's advocate but I hope I'm raising important points. I don't really want to see the loss of more trees, but I don't want to spend money on saving one species from the inevitable. Other trees will fill the canopy.


RHoman's picture

If only it was a case of just

If only it was a case of just "saving one species from the inevitable". The links cited in this thread give abundant evidence of the dependence of a range of other species on the Ash. I doubt whether these others will make the evolutionary jump to which you refer. The genus Fraxinus is poorly represented in NW Europe so there is no obvious alternative food source for Ash dependents. Other trees might fill a hole in the canopy but they will not support the Ash's invertebrate population. Your suggestion that "To save one species over another is to domesticate" is an echo of your previous lose one/gain one argument and both viewpoints overlook the complexity and inter-dependence of an ecosystem.

Robert Homan

gardener's picture


"We might lose a species but we've gained one"

Just adding a link to the BLS website to give an idea of the potentially major impact the 'loss of one species' could cause for lichens, particularly those species already badly affected following the loss of the majority of elms.

It has been estimated it could take 200-300 years for some of these specialised lichen communities to recover - if they ever do.

WS159's picture

The loss is not just the ash trees

Setting aside "just part of nature" and "evolution...jumps" for a moment, if we lose ash woodland it's not just the trees that are involved.

These articles are worth reading, and give a bit of an idea about other species, birds, plants, insects, fungi that will be affected.

John Pilkington's picture


Many thanks for the pointers to both articles; very illuminating summaries of the importance of Ash and the potential impact of significant loss within this species. Disturbing number of locations with confirmed sightings of fungal damage already.