Fungal Disease, Lethal to Ash Trees, Will Cost British Government £15 Billion

May 15, 2019

Ash dieback, an invasive fungal disease, is expected to kill 95% to 99% of the UK’s native ash trees if local governments do not intervene.

As a result of the disease, the UK is expected to lose valuable access to clean air and water, as well as carbon dioxide storage, reports a study in Current Biology. Nearly £15 billion will be spent in an effort to fight the disease, including more than £7 billion within the next decade. Full recovery from ash dieback is expected to take up to 100 years, according to The Guardian.

Approximately £4.8 billion of the total estimated cost will go to clean up efforts, including the removal of infected trees along roadsides and railroad tracks and in populated areas to prevent them from falling.

A portion of the cost will also go to making up for lost resources. Researchers from the Current Biology study suggest a nationwide replanting scheme to ensure resources are not dangerously depleted, an endeavor that’s expected to save the country an estimated £2.5 billion.

Thought to have been brought to Britain before 2012 on imported ash trees from Asia, ash dieback is only one of nearly 50 other pests and diseases threatening British wildlife. If allowed to take hold, these other pests could create an additional £1 billion in damage. Study researchers suggest tighter restrictions on plant imports to the UK to prevent further issues.

Although ash dieback is not known to exist in Indiana, the Hoosier state faces its own struggles with invasive pests and diseases. The emerald ash borer is one such pest that impacts the ash trees native to Indiana.

First confirmed in Northern Indiana in 2004, the emerald ash borer had been detectedin all 92 counties by 2016, according to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that a total of $10.7 billion will be spent in the efforts to eradicate the ash borers, necessitating the replacement of more than 17 million trees.

Although the ash tree quarantine was lifted in Indiana in 2016, the DNR continues to recommend using only local firewood and burning through it completely in order to prevent further spread of the borers. It also recommends planting ‘ash alternatives’ that are not impacted by ash borers, such as maple, hickory, beech and oak trees.

Fungal Disease, Lethal to Ash Trees, Will Cost British Government £15 Billion