Deadly ash disease found in South West
The region's first case of a deadly ash tree disease sweeping the country has been confirmed.
The ash dieback infection has been identified by the Forestry Commission at a recently planted site to the south west of Exeter in Devon.
Until now the disease, Chalara fraxinea - which is caused by a fungus and usually leads to the death of the tree - had been concentrated in the South East of the country.
Last week it emerged that nurseries in the Westcountry were burning thousands of ash saplings in an attempt to keep the disease out of the region.
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Further details of the confirmed infection site were not available, but it is known to be at a recently planted location rather than in the wider environment.
The region is particularly rich in ash trees – more than 30% of our woodlands are made up of the indigenous species, as are countless miles of hedgerow.
Experts fear the landscape could be "devastated" if the disease spreads widely.
It is thought that ash plants imported to the UK as far back as 2009 could carry the infection, and it is unknown where these plants ended up.
Environmentalists have stated the effect of the disease could be as deadly for ash as Dutch Elm disease was for elm trees.
From the late 1960s onwards, Dutch Elm disease led to the loss of 20 million elms nationwide, many from hedgerows.
The official Government map of confirmed cases of ash dieback infection can be viewed here.