Ash dieback found in Carmarthenshire private woodland

Ash tree 100,000 ash trees in England have been destroyed by the fungal disease

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Wales' first case of ash dieback disease has been confirmed by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

It was found in a newly planted tree on private woodland in Carmarthenshire but Defra has refused to be more specific.

Some scientists warn the outbreak has the potential to devastate the UK's population of 80 million ash trees.

BBC Wales understands seven suspicious sites had been found in Wales with the results of tests being awaited.

Prof Hugh Evans, head of forest research in Wales, explains how the disease might have reached Wales

Hundreds of people looking for signs of the disease in Wales have worked in areas of 10km sq for three days.

The seven suspicious sites have been tested, and the results are awaited. It is not known if the confirmed site was one of the original seven.

BBC Wales environment correspondent Iolo ap Dafydd said action would be taken at the site where the disease has been confirmed.

He said: "What they will do is take out the new planted trees - planted in 2009 - and they will take all the trees in the surrounding area out as well.

"Obviously it's going to be quite worrying for nurseries, private woodlands and other areas of the country," he added.

Ash dieback was first recorded in eastern Europe in 1992 and spread over two decades to infect most of the continent.

The first confirmed case in the UK was recorded at a nursery in Buckinghamshire back in March.

Some scientists warn the outbreak has the potential to devastate the UK's population of 80 million ash trees.

Forestry Commission (FC) Wales said the affected trees were small and "measures have been put in place to minimise the risk of the disease spreading to the wider environment".

A containment notice will be issued for the site.

John Browne, FC Wales' head of forest regulation and tree health, said, "Wind-borne spores are the main mechanism for the disease to spread in the wider environment, typically during August and September.

"We now have a window to capture the best scientific advice to help shape our response.

"However, now that we have found the first case of the disease in Wales, we believe that more infected trees could be discovered here."

'Utmost urgency'

Start Quote

Now that we have found the first case of the disease in Wales, we believe that more infected trees could be discovered here”

End Quote John Browne Forestry Commission Wales

Environment Minister John Griffiths said the Welsh government was working with other agencies to "tackle this disease as a matter of the utmost urgency".

Conservative AM Antoinette Sandbach, shadow minister for rural affairs, said she had written to Mr Griffiths asking why he refused to take an urgent question on the matter in the assembly on Tuesday.

She added: "While its rapid spread across the UK meant such a situation was likely, it is now vital that the Welsh government gets a grip on the issue."

Plaid Cymru's environment spokesman, Llyr Gruffydd AM, said: "This deadly fungal disease threatens to devastate Wales' native ash trees and serious questions must be asked as to why the Welsh government has clearly not given this matter the priority it deserves."

Confirmation of Wales' first case came after the UK Environment Secretary met experts to discuss how to tackle ash dieback (chalara fraxinea).

Some ideas included raising awareness and issuing information on "leaf litter management".

Another included developing partnerships "to continue surveillance for disease and resistance and making use of volunteers".

Speaking after the summit on Wednesday, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said: "Many of the ideas discussed today are extremely interesting, and our scientists and plant health experts will examine them urgently and include the most effective ones in an action plan by the end of the week."

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