Deadly ash dieback tree disease causing 'ecological collapse' in Peak District

Tree contractors at work in the Peak District.
Tree contractors at work in the Peak District.

“It’s been called a ‘period of ‘Ecological Collapse’,” said Ted Talbot, countryside manager for the National Trust in the Peak District. “Doesn’t sound nice, does it?”

Earlier this year, Ted and his team of rangers learned that the deadly ash dieback fungal disease had reached every part of the National Trust’s woodlands in the White Peak.

Trees affected by ash dieback disease.

Trees affected by ash dieback disease.

The conclusion was that 85 per cent of the ash trees in Dovedale, Miller’s Dale, Taddington, the Manifold Valley and hundreds of roadside trees are likely to die from ash dieback in the next few years – maybe 250,000 trees in total.

“There’s a real sadness,” Ted said. “Along with enormous frustration and annoyance because this is a human-induced tragedy.”

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Originating in Asia, where local ash species have adapted to the fungus, it’s believed the disease arrived in Europe and the UK through global free trade in garden plants, and its fungal spores have since spread on the wind.

Walkers this October will hear chainsaws across Dovedale, as dead or dying ash trees are cleared: visitors are asked to check National Trust social media for path closures.

Over the last three years, afflicted ash trees felled in the White Peak for public safety by the National Trust have jumped from 10 to 80 to 200, and Ted believes the scale will increase.

His tree felling contractors are only removing trees near paths or trails that could be dangerous to the public, while in 90 per cent of the woodland “nature will take its course” Ted said.

A study by Oxford University and the Woodland Trust estimated the cost of ash dieback is likely to reach £15 billion in public safety costs and the loss of ‘ecosystem services’.

The public can help by organising an event or donating to the National Trust’s ‘Woods for the Future’ Peak District Appeal.