Ash dieback research, funding and policy news – 16 September 2015

16th Sep 2015

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Virulence of Hymenoscyphus albidus and native and introduced Hymenoscyphus fraxineus on Fraxinus excelsior and Fraxinus pennsylvanica

Ash dieback is caused by Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, a cryptic species of the putatively harmless Hymenoscyphus albidus. Recently, H. fraxineus was found to be native to East Asia. However, the virulence of Asian H. fraxineus strains on Fraxinus excelsior and the virulence of European H. albidus on hosts other than F. excelsior and Fraxinus mandshurica have not yet been assessed. In a wound inoculation study, the virulence of four H. albidus and four European and Japanese H. fraxineus strains was assessed on F. excelsior and Fraxinus pennsylvanica in a climate chamber. Lesion lengths were measured after approximately three and a half months. No lesions were observed on the negative control or on trees inoculated with H. albidus. In contrast, inoculation with H. fraxineus induced typical symptoms of ash dieback on both tree species. Japanese H. fraxineus strains induced significantly longer lesions compared to European strains. Fraxinus excelsior was highly susceptible and developed lesions averaging lengths of 1·7 and 8·4 cm for European and Japanese strains, respectively. Fraxinus pennsylvanica was less susceptible and developed average lesion lengths of 1·6 and 4·8 cm for European and Japanese strains, respectively. Most strains were successfully reisolated from necrotic lesions or inocula, fulfilling Koch’s postulates. The data show that additional introductions of H. fraxineus strains from the native range to Europe could pose a threat to the conservation of F. excelsior. In addition, introduction of H. fraxineus to North America could potentially have a negative effect on the indigenous F. pennsylvanica.

 

Newly confirmed cases of deadly tree disease in Cumbria

An international forestry expert has warned that more than half a million ash trees in Cumbria – some dating back to the Tudors – are directly threatened after new cases of ‘Chalara Ash Dieback Disease’ were confirmed in the Lake District. Professor Ted Wilson, Director of the Penrith-based Silviculture Research International, said reports of the disease in ash trees in Cumbria was the “news we have all been dreading.” The latest information released by the Forestry Commission shows confirmed reports in the Borrowdale area, the Kendal to Windermere corridor, the south-east lakes area, the Eden Valley and near Carlisle and Longtown.

 

Cutting edge: Lessons from Fraxinus, a crowd-sourced citizen science game in genomics

In 2013, in response to an epidemic of ash dieback disease in England the previous year, we launched a Facebook-based game called Fraxinus to enable non-scientists to contribute to genomics studies of the pathogen that causes the disease and the ash trees that are devastated by it. Over a period of 51 weeks players were able to match computational alignments of genetic sequences in 78% of cases, and to improve them in 15% of cases. We also found that most players were only transiently interested in the game, and that the majority of the work done was performed by a small group of dedicated players. Based on our experiences we have built a linear model for the length of time that contributors are likely to donate to a crowd-sourced citizen science project. This model could serve a guide for the design and implementation of future crowd-sourced citizen science initiatives.

 

Tree planting army needed to replace millions of ash

The impact of ash dieback on 12 million trees outside of woods could prove disastrous both for wildlife and our cherished landscapes. The Woodland Trust is launching a new initiative encouraging people to plant trees specifically in areas badly affected by the tree disease.

 

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