02/11/2012 10:10 GMT | Updated 02/11/2012 10:13 GMT

Disease Killing Ash Trees Leads Government To Call Crisis Meeting

The Government's crisis committee Cobra will meet on Friday to discuss the disease threatening the UK's native ash trees.

The fungal disease, which causes leaf loss and crown dieback and can lead to ash tree death, has wiped out up to 90% of ash trees in some areas of Denmark and has now been found in Britain.

The disease was first identified in nurseries and recently planted sites including a car park and a college campus, and last month officials confirmed it had been found in the wider countryside in East Anglia.

The government banned imports of ash trees on Monday but the discovery has increased fears that ash trees face the same fate as the elm, which was devastated by Dutch elm disease in the 1970s.

ash tree disease

The disease has killed off 90% of ash trees in Denmark

Approximately 100,000 trees have already been destroyed in a bid to prevent the disease spreading, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) confirmed.

Friday morning's Cobra meeting to discuss a response to the crisis will be chaired by Environment Secretary Owen Paterson.

There are concerns that with the fungus having reached the wider countryside, possibly arriving as spores are blown over the North Sea, it will be very hard to stop its spread in the UK.

Fears remain that the spread of the disease could have a dramatic impact on wildlife and lead to rare species being lost if it takes hold.

After Chalara ash dieback was identified at Norfolk Wildlife Trust's Lower Wood reserve, Ashwellthorpe, an ancient woodland and a protected Site of Special Scientific Interest, the Trust's chairman warned of the potential threat to wildlife.