Ash Dieback Disease
Ash dieback is a serious disease of ash trees caused by the fungal pathogen Hymenoscyphus fraxineus (previously known as Chalara fraxinea).
Update on Republic of Ireland figures:
Number and location of confirmed findings of Ash Dieback disease in the Republic of Ireland (as of 31 December 2016)
Number by site type / county
Number of confirmed findings (Oct '12 - Dec '15)
Number of additional findings confirmed in 2016
Total as of 31 December 2016
|Farm / agri- environment plantings||25||3||28|
|No. of counties with hedgerow findings||12||5||172|
|No. of counties with roadside / motorway findings||13||1||143|
- There are currently 322 forestry plantations with positive samples distributed over 24 counties: Carlow, Cavan, Clare, Cork, Dublin, Galway, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Leitrim, Limerick, Longford, Louth, Mayo, Meath, Monagan, Offaly, Roscommon, Sligo, Tipperary, Waterford, Westmeath, Wexford, and Wicklow.
- There are currently 17 counties with individual positive samples taken from trees in native hedgerows: Cavan, Clare, Donegal, Galway, Kildare, Kilkenny, Leitrim, Limerick, Longford, Mayo, Meath, Monaghan, Roscommon, Sligo, Tipperary, Wexford, and Wicklow.
- There are currently 14 counties with individual positive samples taken from trees in roadside / motorway landscaping plantings: Clare, Cork, Dublin, Galway, Kilkenny, Limerick, Laois, Louth, Meath, Monaghan, Offaly, Tipperary, Waterford, and Westmeath.
What is it?
Ash dieback is a serious disease of ash trees caused by the fungal pathogen Hymenoscyphus fraxineus (previously known as Chalara fraxinea). It has spread rapidly across much of Europe. It was first noted in Republic of Ireland in October 2012 on plants imported from continental Europe. The disease can affect ash trees of any age and in any setting. The disease can be fatal, particularly among younger trees.
What does it look like?
The wide range of symptoms associated with ash dieback includes:
- Necrotic lesions and cankers along the bark of branches or main stem
- Foliage wilt
- Foliage discolouration (brown / black discolouration at the base and midrib of leaves)
- Dieback of shoots, twigs or main stem resulting in crown dieback
- Epicormic branching or excessive side shoots along the main stem
- Brown / orange discolouration of bark
- Forest Service, Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM), 01 6072651, firstname.lastname@example.org, Forest Service, DAFM website
- Chalara (ash dieback) early leaf symptoms (PDF)
- Chalara (ash dieback) information leaflet (PDF)
|Foliage wilt||Shoot dieback||Elongated angular stem lesions|
|Note, symptoms similar to the above may be caused by other factors, e.g. frost.|
How can it spread?
Infection first makes its way into a tree when the spores of the fungus are carried in the air and land on healthy leaves over the summer months. The fungus then grows into the leaves and down into the leaf petiole (or rachis), and progressively into twigs, branches, and the stem.
The infected leaves gradually wilt and blacken, but may remain on the tree for some time. These infected leaves then fall to the ground over the autumn and early winter months and the fungus produces a characteristic blackened ‘pseudosclerotial plate’ on the rachises. These blackened rachises harbour the disease overwinter.
In the sexual reproductive stage of the fungus, which takes place over the course of the summer and autumn months (June to October), very small mushroom-like fruiting bodies develop on the blackened rachises and decaying leaf litter from the previous autumn and winter. When mature, these tiny fruiting bodies release large quantities of microscopic spores into the air, some of which will land on the leaves of both healthy and previously infected ash trees to begin the cycle again.
Where the disease is already present in a locality further local spread is likely to be caused by spores borne on the wind, each year travelling many kilometres from the original source. There is also a risk of introducing the disease into a locality where it is not yet present (and where that locality is at a considerable distance from an existing source of infection) by bringing already diseased ash seeds or plants into that area for the first time.
However, movement of larger diameter ash logs from infected areas is considered to be much lower risk as long as certain phytosanitary measures are properly implemented. These include ensuring the larger diameter logs have no evident signs of the disease (e.g. lesions or staining) and that all leaves and foliage (whether living or dead) are completely removed on site before transportation.
What to do?
Forest and land owners are asked to be vigilant for the disease and to report (with photographs, if possible) any sites where they have concerns about unusual ill health in ash, to the Forest Service, Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine: by email (email@example.com); or, by phone (01-607 2651).
Please do not remove any plant material from a site containing suspect trees. Also, please observe the following hygiene measures on sites where the disease is suspected or where an ash survey is being carried out to help avoid its potential spread:
- footwear: wash off all soil and plant debris from boots. Spray your boots with disinfectant and dispose of any used water onto an area where the water will not run into a watercourse;
- clothing: check all clothing for any plant material; and,
- tools and equipment: wash off all soil and plant debris, and disinfect and dispose of any used water onto an area where the water will not run into a watercourse.
The Department introduced a Reconstitution Scheme (Chalara Ash Dieback) in March 2013 to restore forests planted under the afforestation scheme which had suffered from this disease. By the first quarter of 2016, over 733 hectares of infected and associated ash plantations have been cleared and replanted with alternative species. This has entailed the uprooting and deep burial of an estimated 2 million plus ash trees.
Following a review in April 2017, the disposal requirements were revised to take into account the size of the trees involved along with the level of infection present. With an increasing number of older trees being affected, it was no longer practical to deal with large non-infected trees in the same way as smaller newly planted trees, where deep burial or burning is a viable option.
The revision also identified issues in relation to the means of notifying owners, the timeframes set for commencing and completing site clearance works, and practical difficulties with the current sanitation action plan requirements, as well as the need to promote other relevant support Schemes.
Details of this revision can be found here:
When visiting a forest:
- do not remove any plant material from the site; and,
- clean clothes and footwear of any plant material, including leaves, before leaving the forest.
Please highlight this serious disease by downloading and displaying this Chalara Warning Poster (2.5 MB) in a prominent place.
Chalara in Europe
- Forestry Commission of Great Britain: Chalara ash dieback website including some excellent YouTube videos
- FRAXBACK website (FPS COST Action FP1103)
- Ash Dieback on the island of Ireland, A.R. MCCRACKEN, G.C. DOUGLAS, C. RYAN, M. DESTEFANIS, L.R. COOKE. R. Vasaitis & R. Enderle (eds), Dieback of European Ash (Fraxinus spp.): Consequences and Guidelines for Sustainable Management, 125 – 139 (PDF).
- Ash Dieback in Europe - Vegetative Propagation of dieback-tolerant Fraxinus excelsior on commercial scale, G.C. DOUGLAS, J.M. NAMARA, K. O’CONNELL, L. DUNNE, J. GRANT. R. Vasaitis & R. Enderle (eds), Dieback of European Ash (Fraxinus spp.): Consequences and Guidelines for Sustainable Management, 288 – 299 (PDF).
- European Workshop Meeting on Chalara, Dubrovnik 2015 (PDF). Summary report from a meeting of European experts, 12-16 April 2015, Dubrovnik, Croatia.
- European Workshop Meeting on Chalara, Palanga 2014 (PDF). Summary report from a meeting of European experts, 16-18 September 2014, Palanga, Lithuania.
- European Workshop Meeting on Chalara, London 2013 (PDF). Summary report from a meeting of European experts at the Linnean Society, London; 29 November 2013. The video presentations can be viewed here.
- European Workshop Meeting on Chalara, Vilnius 2012 (PDF). Summary report from a meeting of European experts, 13-14 November 2012, Vilnius, Lithuania.
Department of Agriculture Updates:
- All Ireland Chalara Control Strategy (PDF)
- Full details of the Chalara Reconstitution Scheme (PDF). April 2017: Revision of the Reconstitution Scheme (Chalara Ash Dieback) (PDF)
- Ash Dieback Information Note (PDF)
- Statutory Instrument SI 431 (No.2) of 2012 (PDF)
- Statutory Instrument SI 411 of 2012 (PDF)
- 29 April 2015: Seanad debates, Statements on Ash Dieback Disease
- 21 April 2015: Dáil - written answers, Ash Dieback Threat
- 29 October 2013: Department Issues Update on Ash Dieback
- 07 October 2013: Department Issues Update on Ash Dieback
- 17 May 2013: Minister Coveney outlines policy for Removal of Suspect Ash Trees planted under REPS/AEOS
- 27 February 2013: Coveney gives update on Ash Disease
- 13 December 2012: Government Steps up Ash Dieback (Chalara) Eradication Measures
- 05 December 2012: McEntee announces temporary suspension of Ash Planting
- 07 November 2012: McEntee announces enhanced Ash Wood ban
- 02 November 2012: O'Neill and McEntee agree common position on ash wood imports
- 01 November 2012: North/South Ministerial Discusses further Co-operation on Chalara
- 26 October 2012: McEntee announces further measures to stop ash disease spreading to Ireland
- 18 October 2012: Minister of State McEntee meets Forest Liaison Group on Chalara Disease
- 16 October 2012: McEntee meets forest nurseries and hurley makers to strengthen measures on recent Chalara outbreak
- 12 October 2012: Chalara disease found in young ash trees