Ash dieback in the UK: A review of the ecological and conservation implications and potential management options

R. J. Mitchell, J.K. Beaton, P.E. Bellamy, A. Broome, J. Checuti, S. Eaton, C. J. Ellis, A. Gimona, R. Harmer, A. J. Hester, R. L. Hewison, N. G. Hodgetts, G. R. Iason, G. Kerr, N. A. Littlewood, S. Newey, J. M. Potts, G. Pozsgai, D. Ray, D. A. SimJ. A. Stockan, A. F. S. Taylor, S. Woodward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

117 Citations (Scopus)


The death of native trees caused by non-native pathogens is a global problem. An assessment of the potential ecological and conservation impacts of any tree disease should identify: (1) ecosystem functions associated with the tree species; (2) which species use the tree and how; (3) the suitability of alternative tree species to replace the threatened tree species; and (4) potential management options to mitigate or reduce the impact of the disease.

We assess the potential ecological impact of Hymenoscyphus pseudoalbidus (ash dieback) on Fraxinus excelsior in the UK. 953 species were identified as associated with F. excelsior trees: 12 birds, 28 mammals, 58 bryophytes, 68 fungi, 239 invertebrates, 548 lichens. Forty-four ‘obligate’ species were identified: 11 fungi, 29 invertebrates and 4 lichens; and 62 ‘highly associated’ species.

Off-setting the loss of ash with ‘alternative tree species’ may be one ‘solution’ to the biodiversity threat. No single alternative tree species can act as host for all ash-associated species but Quercus robur/petraea can host 69%. In an assessment of ecosystem function, when compared to other European deciduous tree species, F. excelsior interacts with the environment in a unique way, particularly in relation to nutrient cycling.

Exploration of different management scenarios in response to ash dieback indicated that management which did not remove infected F. excelsior trees was the best for ‘obligate’ and ‘highly associated’ species.

The results highlight wide-ranging ecological implications of ash dieback of relevance to other invasive pests and pathogens that are threatening the integrity of other tree species and woodland ecosystems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-109
Number of pages15
JournalBiological Conservation
Early online date20 May 2014
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2014

Bibliographical note

We thank Keith Kirby for his valuable comments on the vegetation changes associated with ash dieback. For assistance, advice and comments on the invertebrate species involved in this review we would like to thank Richard Askew, John Badmin, Tristan Bantock, Joseph Botting, Sally Lucker, Chris Malumphy, Bernard Nau, Colin Plant, Mark Shaw, Alan Stewart and Alan Stubbs. Chris Preston kindly allowed us access to the electronic data from New Atlas of the British and Irish Flora, Janet Simkin kindly provided data from the British Lichen Society database, and IFOS (Forestry Commission) kindly provided sample square summary data from
the National Forest Inventory.
This work was funded by JNCC, Natural Resources Wales, Natural England, Forestry Commission, Scottish Natural Heritage and
Northern Ireland Environment Agency. Representatives from the funders (Sallie Bailey, John Farren, Emma Goldberg, Jeanette Hall,
Elizabeth Howe and Vicky Morgan) provided valuable comments and advice.


  • Biodiversity loss
  • Chalara fraxinea
  • Decline of common species
  • Emerging diseases
  • Extinction
  • Forest pathology
  • Fungal pathogens
  • Tree diseases


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