Ash dieback, the disease caused by fungus Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, is now present across the whole of the Yorkshire Dales National Park with some areas more severely affected than others. Ash is the predominant tree within the Dales and has considerable landscape, ecological and historical importance. We expect to lose the majority, but not all of our ash trees, which is expected to have a significant impact on the Dales landscape.
The position of the Authority that has been endorsed by the Dales Woodland Forum, is as follows:-
1. We can act now to minimise the landscape and biodiversity impact of ash tree loss
We don’t need to wait for the majority of ash trees to disappear before replanting trees in the landscape. For example, in areas where the vast majority of trees are ash, we can future proof our landscape by planting in anticipation of the loss. Through the Dales Woodland Forum we promote alternative species planting to pre-empt the expected loss of ash within existing and new woodlands. We encourage better management of existing woodland through our work on facilitating woodland management plans. We will look at how we can better encourage and facilitate tree planting outside woodland.
2. Land and home owners must manage their trees responsibly
Managing the risk from trees is the responsibility of the owners of the land on which trees grow. We will encourage and support land owners to find the right balance between the risks trees pose and the benefits they provide. Trees need more careful monitoring and management where they are found to be hazardous, where targets exist and particularly in the case of ash dieback, where a lack of vitality suggests the trees are likely to become dangerous.
3. Trees should not be unnecessarily felled
Trees which are otherwise considered safe, which are not symptomatic of ash dieback, those showing a level of tolerance or reasonable to good levels of vitality, and those trees which would cause no damage if they failed (i.e. having no targets), generally don’t need to be felled. There is an expectation that a small proportion of trees will show some higher genetic tolerance to the disease and these trees will become more apparent over the next five to ten years. These are the trees which need to be safeguarded as they will provide the next generation of ash trees.
4. Ash trees continue to provide great benefits even as reduced trees or standing deadwood
Trees showing even advanced signs of dieback can be left to decline naturally if they pose no danger due to their location. Hazardous trees close to buildings or areas of high use may be reduced and made safe, or in some situations heavily reduced and left as standing deadwood. This will allow the trees to continue to provide ecosystem benefits to safeguard precious habitat (especially veteran trees) and allow the retention of ash trees for longer in the landscape. Ancient trees provide irreplaceable habitat and should not be felled.
5. Plant more trees than the number felled
Due to various factors such as historical land use and land ownership, the Dales has a low level of tree cover compared to other regions. Where feasible and appropriate, we encourage people to plant a greater number of trees than the number felled in order to increase overall net tree cover. Following the principles of ‘right tree, right place,’ we do this through engagement, communication and awareness-raising, and more directly through our planning and protected trees work.
6. Create more new native woodlands
New woodland creation is one of the major success stories in the Yorkshire Dales, driven by the Dales Woodland Forum. We have planted 2010ha since 1995 and have amongst the highest rates of new woodland creation compared to our peers. We will work with partners and landowners to create new woodlands in the right places.
Ash dieback isn’t an issue that should be tackled in isolation – but as one of the new pests and diseases that are increasing in due to global trade and climate change. We will continue to encourage planting a diverse range of suitable species to develop a resilient landscape, to address ash dieback as well as future pests and diseases expected from a changing climate.
7. Look after existing woodlands better
We work with others to promote and facilitate better care of existing woodlands through countryside stewardship schemes. Such schemes promote natural regeneration through stock exclusion, or include enrichment planting where regeneration fails. We will seek to support landowners with woodlands or tree groups which fail to meet funding thresholds. We will put our own woodlands into woodland management plans to promote best practice.
8. Promote biosecurity best practice
We adhere to high levels of biosecurity in conducting our business. We also promote and raise awareness of biosecurity and reduce the risks of introducing new diseases by only planting trees sourced and grown in the UK.
For further information
Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority Trees and Woodlands team: firstname.lastname@example.org
For felling licences or exemptions, contact your local Forestry Commission Woodland Officer: www.gov.uk
For disease-related enquiries, contact the Forestry Commission Tree Health Resilience team email@example.com