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.  In 2013, following the arrival of Chalara ash dieback into the UK, Paradise Wood became a key part of the Defra funded Living Ash Project.

Led by the Earth Trust, in partnership with Forest Research, Future Trees Trust and 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.

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 60,000 trees of commercially important and versatile species for hardwood timber production in the UK: ash, cherry, walnut, beech and oak.  It is a unique woodland and is the largest living genetic collection of hardwood trees managed as a research woodland.

Making an impact on tree health resilience

The key to the success of the Living Ash project lay in identifying those trees which are most resilient to disease. Trees which are more tolerant to the disease will provide a genetically diverse and resilient population for future productive woodland planting.

In 2016 researchers at Queen Mary University, London published a paper in the acclaimed journal Nature on how they successfully decoded the genetic map of European ash. Material from one of Earth Trust’s trees growing in Paradise Wood provided the reference for this important work, which signified a major step forward in the Living Ash Project and accelerated the search for disease tolerant trees.

The legacy of the Living Ash Project

In October 2018, the Living Ash Project drew to a close. Earth Trust hosted the Plant Health Conference at that time, to showcase our living plant collections and commemorate the impact of the Living Ash Project.

This conference presented the results of the Living Ash Project and reported on exciting new research approaches using genomic selection for identifying characteristics such as disease tolerance, faster growth or superior timber quality. These research collaborations have relied upon access to collections of trees and highlight how important woodlands like Paradise Wood are and highlight the need to protect these resources” said Jayne Manley, Chief Executive of Earth Trust.

Find out more

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.

How you can support us

You can help Earth Trust nurture our woodland collections by making a one off donation or becoming an Earth Trust Friend. Your donation and Friendship will have a fantastic impact, enabling Earth Trust to facilitate ground-breaking research as well as providing public access to beautiful woodlands.

Living Ash Project partners

Future Trees Trust
Sylva Foundation
Forest Research

Further information

British Ash Tree Genome Project

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