UK scientists have thrown a lifeline to our ash trees by completing the first sequencing of the Chalara fraxinea genome – the fungus currently attacking ash trees across Europe.
In just a few weeks the scientists have unravelled the genetic secrets of the Chalara ash dieback fungus. This will help them understand how the pathogen attacks ash and may help in the fight against the epidemic. The data is freely available on crowd sourcing website OpenAshDieBack, which allows experts across the globe to identify specific genes and the roles they play in other organisms.
The scientists are also looking to map the genes of ash trees showing resistance to Chalara. In Denmark 2% of ash trees infected by the fungus have survived. The type, known as Tree 35, could provide the key for the survival of ash in our landscapes.
The £2.4 million project is funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. More data will be made available as the project continues, and will be ‘live reviewed’ by researchers around the world.
The light at the end of the ash tunnel is definitely on and our hopes are lifted for the future of this beloved tree. Click here to find out what the Woodland Trust are doing to combat tree pests and diseases.
Kay Haw, Assistant Conservation Adviser