AshTag App to Fight Ash Dieback
A new app known as AshTag is set to help fight Chalara ash dieback, by letting the public report on the health of ash trees, helping identify those that may be tolerant to the disease.
Browning of Ash leaf due to Chalara fraxinea (c) Crown Copyright Forestry Commission /J Webber
AshTag records information like location, tag number, and likelihood of disease presence, and allows the user to upload photos of the tree for the purpose of disease identification. The aim of the project is to identify disease-tolerant trees by the use of citizen science, and is co-ordinated by The Living Ash Project team in association with the University of East Anglia’s Adapt Group, who developed the app.
1% of Trees Show Tolerance
The Living Ash Project team say: “There are an estimated 120 million ash trees in Britain’s woodlands and hedgerows. Evidence from Denmark, where Chalara ash dieback is more prevalent, indicates that approximately 1% of trees show good tolerance to the disease. While tolerant trees may regenerate naturally in some woodlands, identifying tolerant trees is urgently needed so as to ensure a genetically diverse and resilient population for future woodland planting. Identifying tolerant trees and including their progeny in breeding programmes run by the Living Ash Project will enable the large-scale production of resilient trees. The project is employing citizen science – asking members of the public to help in gathering information – to aid in the identification of tolerant trees.”
Chris Blincoe, Programme Manager at the Adapt Group, University of East Anglia says: “The AshTag app was created at a time when the nation’s ash trees were first under threat from ash dieback and the outlook for the species was pretty bleak. Time really was of the essence if we wanted to safeguard our forests and so Adapt had the app up and running just four days after it was confirmed that ash dieback had spread to the UK. Eighteen months on, we are incredibly proud to be in a position to start looking ahead to find a solution to the disease.”
“By asking members of the public across the UK to track the health of their local ash trees, we can tap into a wealth of data which could hold the key to locating tolerant trees and safeguard the future of the UK’s ash trees.”
The Living Ash Project team are most interested in larger trees but any tree can be surveyed. They are particularly keen to survey ash trees in every corner of Britain, because the genetics of ash trees vary across the country. Ideally, the trees selected need to be surveyed every year for at least three years, so that a detailed picture of their health is built up. People who want to find out more can visit www.livingashproject.org.uk to take the survey and to get free tags to track the health of their tree.
The Living Ash Project will also hold a workshop on Chalara Ash Dieback on June 18 in Suffolk.