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Walkers urged to help stop spread of tree disease

Grassington, 2 November, 2012.

Visitors to the Yorkshire Dales National Park were today urged to help stem the spread of a disease that is killing thousands of trees throughout Europe.

Hikers are being asked to take extra care when walking in woods as experts from the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA) work to assess the impact of ash dieback disease on the fragile landscape.

The disease was discovered in the UK earlier this year. It causes leaf loss and kills off the tree’s crown, often resulting in the death of the ash tree. It is caused by the fungus Chalara Fraxinea, which is thought to be transmitted by the wind, insects and rain splash.

National Park Authority conservation experts are working closely with the Forestry Commission – which is leading the effort to contain the disease – and are currently surveying woodlands containing ash trees to see if there are any symptoms.

Geoff Garrett, the YDNPA’s Senior Trees and Woodland Officer, said: "Ash is such an important tree in the broadleaved woodlands of the limestone uplands of the Yorkshire Dales that we are treating the potential impact of the disease very seriously.

"It is impossible to say with any accuracy how many well-established ash trees we have in the National Park but it’s in the order of hundreds of thousands – perhaps even millions.

"On top of that, we have planted about 250,000 new ones in the last 10 years – and they are all at risk from this disease.

"So far we have found no symptoms of it but we would ask people to take extra care when they are out enjoying this beautiful place.

"If they have to go into an area full of trees, we would ask them not to visit other similar areas within a 24-hour period and to make sure they clean their boots, car and bicycle tyres, dogs and anything else that may have come into contact with leaves or wood.

"If the disease were to take hold in the National Park, it would irreversibly alter the character of our woodlands which in turn would have a dramatic effect on the landscape, altering it forever."

Anyone wanting information of ash dieback is asked to contact the Forestry Commission’s Forest Research Tree Health Diagnostic and Advisory Service on 01420 23000 or visit the Forestry Commission website at www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/infd-8w9euv.

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