The latest disease to threaten UK woodlands, Chalara fraxinea or ash dieback, has led scientists to call for plant passports to monitor movements within Europe, for all plants “for planting”, i.e. potted plants, but not cut flowers or fruits.
- Stricter quarantine measures are also being considered, like holding certain species in a safe environment for up to two years in order to ensure they harbour no new diseases. The movement of firewood is another possible source of infection, with logs already banned from leaving the South East and East Anglia.
- It has been reported that 11 new diseases have entered the UK since 2000, compared to 5 in the whole of the 20th Century. Ash trees make up approximately 30% of UK wooded landscape, which could be affected if the disease becomes established. A new report suggests that other major species such as oak and horse chestnut are also under threat. The six “top threats” are already present in Britain, and are all relatively new and invasive.
Implications and next steps: Scientists are using “crowdsourcing” to analyse the genes of the fungus that causes Ash dieback with the aim of finding out what causes the fungus to attack the Ash and the best methods to halt or slow the spread. This means that team will be able to enlist expertise from all over the world to understand the fungus’ origins and its relationship to other fungi. The Github system allows contributions from other scientists to be attributed and tracked, whereas scientists would normally withhold sequence data until they have analysed and had a peer-reviewed paper accepted for publication in a scientific journal, which may be inappropriate in an emergency.
The Guardian: http://tinyurl.com/cerla4b, EurekAlert: http://tinyurl.com/d4fb9ye, The Telegraph: http://tinyurl.com/cso5uhf, The Telegraph: http://tinyurl.com/c6k9bav, The Telegraph: http://tinyurl.com/d2no4dk