04/11/2012 10:26 GMT | Updated 04/11/2012 10:57 GMT

Ash Tree Crisis Deepens As Government Orders Investigation Into Deadly Chalara Fraxinea Fungus

The British landscape could be changed forever by a deadly virus threading to wipe out Britain's ash trees - with as many as 100,000 trees already burned to stop the spread of the fungus.

A government crisis meeting held on Friday ordered an investigation into the chalara fraxinea fungus, which has killed 90% of ash trees in Denmark.

Environment secretary Owen Paterson has ordered environment agencies to survey the state of ash trees in about 3,000 sites across the UK.

The trees are iconic of the British countryside, the third most prevalent species in the country. Their loss will affect many habitats for animals and the UK timber industry, but little is know about the disease itself.

The Daily Mail reported that one of the biggest ash tree growers in the UK is to sue the government for £200,000 over the delay in handling the outbreak.

Robert Crowder, chairman and owner of Crowders Nurseries in Horncastle, Lincolnshire, told the paper he has had to destroy 50,000 ash trees and is blaming three months of dithering and delay by  officials for his losses.

Crowder told the Daily Mail that the Government has ignored warnings about the potential impact of the disease that the Horticultural Trades Association has been making since 2009.

The Government has previously said it is not prepared to compensate for the loss of ash trees, due to the fungus, which has been found at 52 locations.

The Telegraph reported that more than two million trees have been imported from other European countries where the disease was rife, despite the concerns raised four years ago.

But the newspaper said the Forestry Commission was "overstretched and unable to keep up with the number of diseases threatening the country’s trees."A website set up by the University of East Anglia for sightings of infected trees has received 450 reports.