Living Ash Project

Future Trees Trust is pleased to be a partner in the Living Ash project, helping to secure the future for ash trees in Britain

Living Ash Project

Future Trees Trust is pleased to be a partner in the Living Ash Project - a Defra-funded consortium of Earth Trust, Future Trees Trust, Sylva Foundation and Forest Research, aiming to identify ash trees with good tolerance to Chalara ash die-back.  

There are an estimated 120 million ash trees in Great Britain. Evidence from Denmark, where Chalara ash die-back is more prevalent, indicates that approximately 1% of trees show good resistance to the disease.

While natural selection in some woodlands could enable regeneration that is resistant to the disease, the identification of resistant trees is needed as the basis for a genetically diverse and resilient population for future productive woodland planting.  Quickly identifying resistant trees and using them in a breeding programme will enable us to rapidly produce resilient trees.

The Living Ash Project will secure ash trees for the future that show resistance to Chalara ash die-back. It is important that a good proportion of trees that make it through a screening programme will be suitable for timber production to ensure a continued supply of this valuable product for the future.

Defra’s Chief Plant Health Officer Martin Ward said: “We know we can’t eradicate Chalara but the Living Ash Project offers a real solution in dealing with the disease.  Britain’s woodlands are constantly evolving and projects like this one will ensure that ash trees have a place in the woodlands of the future.”

The project partners have been working on breeding ash for improved timber characteristics for over twenty years and have assembled a substantial collection of ash trees from across ash’s native range which has great genetic diversity.

Project leader Dr Jo Clark from Earth Trust said: “This is a great example of charities and government agencies such as Forest Research working together to address what is probably the biggest issue facing our woodlands today. Earth Trust, Sylva Foundation and Future Trees Trust together have many partners and supporters across the forestry sector, all of whom will be getting involved in the awareness, screening and identification work.“

The Living Ash Project incorporates work programmes to:-

  1. identify individual trees that show good tolerance to Chalara ash die-back
  2. screen these individuals using genetic markers developed by other Defra funded research
  3. secure material from these trees in archives for future breeding purposes
  4. develop techniques for rapid production of tolerant trees for deployment to the forestry sector

The project will also employ citizen science to aid in the identification of tolerant trees.  The public are encouraged to get involved by tagging an ash tree near them and reporting on the tree’s progress.  Information can be found on the project website which links to the woodland survey.

In total, including in-kind contributions from the many partners, the project will cost £1.2million and take six years to complete.

Posted on the 3rd October 2014 at 11:51am.