Local landscape architect, Michael Felton, is encouraging the States to put in place a comprehensive survey of the island’s Ash trees in order to protect Jersey’s woodlands from the dangerous Ash die back disease which is sweeping through the UK and Europe.
Michael Felton, a landscape architect with 30 years of experience, is calling on States members to organise a survey of the island’s Ash trees to take place in Spring 2013 to identify as to whether or not the disease is in Jersey. ‘At present we won’t really be able to tell if our trees have the disease,’ said Mr Felton. ‘There is currently no evidence to suggest that the disease is in Jersey but it is unlikely that we’d see the signs until next spring.’
‘The disease can be carried by wind-borne spores and therefore we cannot say with certainty that Jersey’s trees will be immune, even though we’ve banned the importation of Ash trees indefinitely. At the moment the disease has been identified in trees in Northern France as well as several counties in the UK, including Sussex, Berkshire, Lincolnshire, Yorkshire, Bedfordshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Kent and Northumberland, although so far the South West appears to be largely disease free.
‘A survey need not be costly if we work in collaboration with the Environment Department, National Trust, Trees for Life, private land owners and other environmental organisations. I believe we should prioritise the trees in Jersey’s valley areas where we know Ash trees are present and then move onto surveying other locations, with local land owners checking their own estates. The combined resources of these organisations can provide guidelines for participants so islanders know what signs to look for,’ added Mr Felton.
The UK government has announced that all affected new and young trees will be destroyed immediately in an attempt to slow down the spread of the disease. The search for the disease has also been widened to towns and cities. Contaminated mature trees, it was announced last week, will not be burned due to the risk of damage to wildlife. As they take longer to die they may also provide experts with some information about how the disease might be resisted.
Ash die back causes leaves to turn black and drop off before the tree dies. It is thought to have arrived in the UK through air-borne spores from Europe where several countries have been affected by the outbreak with Denmark being worst hit with around 90% of its Ash trees falling to the disease.
‘Jersey currently has a healthy Ash population and it would be tragic to lose the species in entirety because we failed to act when we had opportunity to monitor and manage the situation. Woodland and our individual native trees are important to our ecosystem for many reasons, not least for providing habitats to much of our island’s wildlife. Ash trees are known to provide habitats to over 40 insect species,’ concluded Mr Felton.
Michael Felton was appointed chairman of the landscape committee for the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust from 1985-1990 and has also been an adviser and committee member of the Jersey Association of the Men of the Trees, (now ‘Jersey Trees for Life’) for 30 years and was chairman between 1991 and 1994. In 1978 Mr Felton established Michael Felton Ltd, a practice that has evolved from single practitioner into a team of experienced and qualified, award winning landscape architects.
If anyone should have gathered Ash keys as part of Seed Gathering Month in October, Mr Felton is encouraging islanders to destroy them by burning them. Ash keys look similar to sycamore, ‘helicopters’.
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