UK nature groups are warning that an entirely new bacteria strain may be threatening the oak tree population of the UK.
The oak is the predominant tree in the UK and this disease may have the potential to redraw our much loved landscape.
The disease is of such a concern because of the speed at which it is spreading and damaging the trees, it could become a worse disaster than Dutch Elm disease which, according to forestry.gov.uk by the 1990s had killed off 25 million of the 30 million elms in the UK. Dutch Elm disease had first appeared in North West Europe in about 1910 and by the 1940s had killed off 10%-40% of the elms in different countries across the region.
The disease affects both the pedunculate and sessile varities of oak. The pedunculate oak, sometimes called the common oak or English oak, has stalks on which the acorns grow. The sessile oak is sometimes known as the Welsh oak and its acorns grow directly from the twig with no stalks. Both trees are iconic to the UK and their demise would be a disaster for Britain and catastrophic for the landscape and the wildlife that relies upon them.
Peter Goodwin if Woodland Heritage together with Hilary Allison and Andy Sharkey of Woodland Trust want action now. The cost of researching this and other tree diseases over the next five years has been estimated at Â£10 million.
"We're looking at a disease that has the potential to change our landscape even more than Dutch elm disease, and nothing is being done about it. We can't afford a repetition of what happened then. Action is needed now." Said Peter Goodwin.
At present there are 55 confirmed sites of this disease, which causes black bleeding in the trunk and stems and can kill the tree in 3-5 years. There are other suspected sites that have yet to be confirmed.