Living Ash Project
Since its arrival in 2012, Chalara ash dieback has been spreading across Britain and is a serious threat to our native ash trees and the nature of our woodlands. With over 120 million ash trees in Britain, it will also dramatically alter the appearance of our landscape. Many wildlife species only live on ash trees, so if we lose the ash, these species too may also vanish.
Over the last 20 years Earth Trust has been developing populations of tree species, including ash, that will be resilient to existing and novel diseases and pests.
The Living Ash Project
Since 2013, following the arrival of Chalara ash dieback into the UK, Paradise Wood has been used as part of a Defra funded Living Ash Programme. Led by the Earth Trust, in partnership with with Forest Research, the Future Trees Trust and the Sylva Foundation, the project aimed to find trees with tolerance to Chalara ash dieback. Earth Trust was well placed with its diverse collection of ash to help respond to this new threat.
In 2016 researches at Queen Mary University London published a paper in Nature on how they successfully decoded the genetic map of European ash. Material from Paradise Wood provided the reference for this important work and accelerated the search for disease tolerant trees.
Trees which are more tolerant to the disease will provide a genetically diverse and resilient population for future productive woodland planting.
Paradise Wood: our nationally important research woodland
Paradise Wood was established at Earth Trust in 1993 with the original aim of improving hardwood timber species for increased productivity. It contains over 60000 trees of commercially important and versatile species for hardwood timber production in the UK: ash, cherry, walnut, beech and oak.
Now it is the largest living genetic collection of hardwood trees managed as a research woodland. it has been used for national and international research trials on tree breeding, provenance and physiology, the effect of different pruning different techniques and susceptibility to pests and disease.
This unique collection has become increasingly important with the need to develop future forests that are resilient to increasing challenges such as new pests, disease and the changing climate.
In June 2016 Forestry Research Manager Dr Jo Clark explained all about the Living Ash Project on That’s Oxfordshire TV:
Full details can be found on the Living Ash Project website.