Ash dieback disease cases increase nearly fivefold in Kent
Ash dieback - the killer tree disease which has swept through the country - has seen a fivefold increase in Kent since the end of last year.
In November 2012 there were just 11 cases reported in the county. That's now increased to 52 in just a few months.
But it's not possible to say how great the damage has been in terms of trees, as the figures are not available.
Dieback hits a treet at Hole Park, Rolvenden
Ash trees infected with ash dieback disease. Picture: Food and Environment Research Agency
Statistics released by the Forestry Commission show a huge cluster around Kent and the east coast counties - indicating it's being blown over from the continent.
Ash dieback is caused by a fungus which ultimately leads to the tree's death as a result of leaf loss and crown dieback. The ash tree is the third most common native species.
But the latest figures could be just the start of the rot.
Michael Graham, a tree health advisor with the Woodland Trust, said the disease is expected to progressively worsen.
The withered leaves of an ash tree in Elham attacked by the Dieback fungus. Picture: Peter Gay
He added: “There is evidence to suggest that the windborne spores which cause the infection have blown across from continental Europe. It shows we are facing a lot of serious threats to our trees.”
He added: “The disease does favour damp conditions; certainly a wetter summer might well have increased the infection across the county.”
One of the areas worst hit is Maidstone.
Mr Graham said: “The area around Maidstone has been somewhat of a hotbed of the disease. The Woodland Trust has a site there which is also infected.”
The group is also working hard to tackle the disease, including increasing the number of species of trees planted.
While there is no risk to humans caused from the deadly fungus, there are still a few simple measures that can be taken to help protect the county.
Michael suggested “brushing mud and soil and any leaf litter off your shoes, dogs or bike tyres if being used in the woods.”
He added: “Try and report sightings to help scientists working on the disease and to make them aware of where it is spreading.”
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