A TALK in Port St Mary this week will help to unravel the mysteries of ash die back disease for members of the public.
The presentation is by government forestry officer Jimmy Lee from the Department of Environment Food and Agriculture.
‘I will be talking about what the disease looks like and how it could affect the countryside. There will be pictures and a power point presentation. It will be put in to easy layman’s terms,’ he said.
Though the disease tends to be fairly dormant during the winter he said it usually shows itself in spring and summer as the trees come into leaf so now was a good time to draw public attention to it.
‘If we were to just let it go we could lose up to 50 per cent of our hardwood population,’ he said.
His colleague at DEFA John Walmsley said the island had a quarter of a million ash trees and stringent precautions were to keep them uninfected.
He said if the disease arrived it was important to manage it effectively.
‘There is no known cure for ash die back and it has already wiped out millions of trees. Some trees may prove to have a natural resistance to it but it’s not looking as if there are many resistant strains – 90 per cent have gone in Denmark for example. So we are looking at a significant loss of our broad leaf trees should it get here.
He said one theory in the UK was the disease was carried in imported ash tree stock from the continent but another less probable one was that it was wind borne.
‘It’s a long way for it to be blown from the continent,’ he said.
To date, in the UK there are about 300-plus sites affected many in the south east of England.
At the moment the Manx government has restrictions in place to prevent the import of ash trees so infected material should not reach the island.
Those diseases which have already made it to the island – Dutch elm disease and sudden oak death – are stringently monitored.
While elm populations have been decimated elsewhere, the Isle of Man retains most of its stock. Oak death is a misnomer – it also affects species such as larch and rhododendron and evergreens in some of the island’s plantations.
More information on www.openelm.org.im or call 801263 to report any affected trees.
Mr Lee’s talk is at 7.30pm, Thursday January 17 at Mount Tabor Hall, Port St Mary.