Threat of chalara ash dieback virus set to increase as temperatures rise, says Derbyshire Wildlife Trust expert
A WILDLIFE expert has warned that a deadly virus which could wipe out thousands of ash trees in Derbyshire could begin to spread this spring.
In November, scientists discovered the chalara ash dieback virus in UK ash trees for the first time.
The disease had spread from Europe, where it has devastated millions of trees in Denmark.
The discovery led to widespread fear that trees across the country would be affected and, in the course of a few weeks, stricken trees were found in East Anglia and Kent and subsequently in other counties.
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The Government held emergency meetings to discuss how to handle the problem but, over the winter, the problem seemed to have slowed down.
Kieron Huston, wildlife sites officer with the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, said that the freezing temperatures of the past few months would have stopped the spread of disease-carrying spores.
He said: "Since the first signs of it were spotted, not much more has been understood about it.
"There is still a lot to be investigated.
"Although the media interest has dimmed, there have still been people out from the Forestry Commission looking for this disease.
"During winter, ash trees lose their leaves and the spores would not have been able to distribute as freely in the low temperatures."
Although instances of the disease are yet to be found in Derbyshire, Mr Huston said that he was briefing colleagues at the trust this week and warned that, as temperatures began to rise, the virus could begin to move again.
He said: "The areas we would expect to see it in this county would be new plantations of ash trees, which could be on private sites or country parks like Shipley or Poulter.
"I would advise people who have new plantations of ash to look closely at them and report any findings to us and to the Forestry Commission.
"Each year, we carry out a survey of 40 or 50 woodland sites and, as we do so this year, we will be looking for chalara ash dieback. The threat and the concern is still there, definitely.
"Its spread might not be as rapid as people had thought and it might take years before we really see the magnitude of its effects, but it remains a potentially very big problem for the county."