REFUGE zones are being identified for threatened trees in a bid to help save Scotland’s woodlands from the spread of deadly Chalara ash dieback disease.
Experts are looking for locations in the west and north-west which are naturally protected from the wind – which can carry the spores of the dieback fungus – and also isolated from contact with infected, imported saplings.
Mature trees which show natural resistance to the disease will be used to try to develop new strains of ash which could be transported to these safe havens to help restock Scotland’s forests in future.
The measures are part of an action plan announced last night following a summit in Edinburgh where experts met the Scottish Government to decide how to control the disease.
Mass felling of mature ash trees and forests has been ruled out because the disease is now so widespread. It has been found at both new planting sites and in established woods.
Environment and climate change minister Paul Wheelhouse said after yesterday’s meeting: “There were many useful and positive contributions from the floor that will certainly be looked at more closely as we co-ordinate with the UK government effort and develop a control strategy for the end of November.
“As a result of today’s meeting we will look at options for new planting sites, including immediate action to remove infected young plants. We will continue to monitor the situation and assess the scope and range of the disease.”
The next phase of the government’s response will involve working closely with land managers across Scotland, and the public, to monitor the disease. It has been confirmed at 14 sites in Scotland so far, including two in the wild.