THOUSANDS of ash trees in Swansea are likely to die from an airborne disease which has plagued Europe.
Council chiefs have surveyed about 3,000 ash trees on land it owns where there is a potential public safety risk, with another 2,000 or so left to check.
Trees showing advanced signs of ash dieback, which causes them to become brittle and die, are being felled.
Private landowners and householders are also being encouraged to look out for ash on their premises and seek the advice of a trained arborist if the trees are losing their leaves – the main symptom of the seemingly unstoppable fungal disease.
“This is a very sad situation,” said Councillor Mark Thomas, cabinet member for environment and infrastructure management. “We know from ongoing research and evidence elsewhere in the country that ash trees affected by ash dieback will more than likely die. This is a problem affecting all of the UK and there is no cure. The disease prevents ash trees absorbing water and so they become brittle. This means larger mature trees could collapse without warning and we need to ensure this does not happen.”
Some trees have already been taken down, but many more will need to be felled.
Cllr Thomas added: “By acting now, we will reduce the risk that diseased trees will fall on people, property, power lines and roads.”
The Tree Council has called ash dieback the most significant tree disease since the devastating Dutch elm disease of the 1980s, and said it could eventually kill most of the UK’s 150 million mature ash.
It was first identified in Europe in Poland in 1992 before making landfall in the UK 20 years later. It is suspected to have come from Asia originally.
The council is following guidance from The Tree Council, and a web page will be added to the authority’s website in the coming days.
Swansea’s highway inspectors are being trained to spot the signs of ash dieback, and enforcement against landowners whose ash trees are affected and are close to roads or cycle paths, for example, is possible.
Householders who request the services of council arborists for other non-essential jobs will face a very long wait.
The process of identifying and felling affected trees will take years. Different species of replacement trees will be planted, where appropriate.
Some ash will be resistant to the disease, but up to 90% are likely to be affected.
A separate disease blighting larch has resulted in hundreds of thousands of trees being cut down in Wales in recent years.
Jeremy Davies, the council’s group leader of parks and cleansing, said of ash dieback: “This is a bigger problem than larch.” He said nothing can be done to stop its spread. “It has decimated ash stock in Europe,” he said.