Ash killing: disease of killer trees would cost 15 billion pounds



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Gray in Bloom (image: BBC)

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The issue of biosafety should become increasingly important in order to prevent alien invading pathogens from entering the habitat of the United Kingdom

The outbreak of ash disease is costing the UK in the region of 15 billion pounds sterling, it is estimated.

The scientists expressed shock at the "disconcerting" financial burden on taxpayers.

The authors caution that the cost of dealing with the consequences of ash death far exceeds the income from importing nurseries.

It was an imported nursery tree that initially brought the deadly disease to these beaches.

They added that it was the first time the total cost of the outbreak was estimated.

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"We estimate that the total could be £ 15 billion," said study author Louise Hill, a researcher in Plant Sciences at Oxford University.

"This is one-third more than the reported cost of the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in 2001.

"The consequences of tree disease for people really have not been fully appreciated before."

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Forestry Commission

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Young and susceptible young birds quickly succumb to the pathogen

The disease, also known as chalara ash death, was first reported in the UK in a nursery in 2012, and was recorded in a wider environment for the first time in 2013.

Since then, it has spread throughout much of the United Kingdom.

The Forestry Commission says it has "the potential to cause significant damage to the UK ash population, with implications for forest biodiversity and ecology, and for the timber industries."

In Europe, the pathogen caused widespread damage and killed and infected millions of ash.

& # 39; High impact & # 39;

In addition to estimating the loss of losing an economically important species, the value of 15 billion pounds takes into account the loss of "ecosystem services," such as water purification and carbon sequestration.

Co-author of the report, Dr. Nick Atkinson, senior adviser to the Woodland Trust, said: "What we are drawing attention to is that there is this enormous financial and economic impact of an epidemic of tree diseases."

The authors, writing in the journal Current Biology, estimated that the total cost of ash oxidation would be 50 times greater than the annual trade value of live plants to and from Britain.

"What you have to look at is essentially the risk we're taking when negotiating across borders against the benefits, which are the financial gains coming from that market," he told BBC News.

"The cost of 15 billion pounds we are now facing is the direct result of a trade worth several million pounds."

The researchers said that most of the cost will be borne by local authorities.

"As we know, local authorities are not well funded and certainly are not funded enough to deal with an epidemic of this magnitude," noted Dr. Atkinson.

"There's this hole in politics to respond to events like this."

And it is something that is very likely to happen again in the near future, they warn, as there are 47 other known pests and diseases that can reach Britain and cause more than a billion pounds (or more) of damage.

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