Monday, 8 March 2010

Elm tree reintroduction project starts

The first step to re-establishing elm trees in Britain is being taken this month with 250 schools receiving saplings to plant.

By Stephen AdamsPublished: 12:37PM GMT 07 Mar 2010
From the 1960s onwards about 25 million English elms were wiped out by Dutch elm disease, caused by a fungus that had been imported in a batch of infected timber.
It had been thought that none survived but a survey started by the Natural History Museum in 2003 discovered a couple of hundred mature examples still living.

Saplings were taken by the Conservation Foundation, a charity founded by David Bellamy and David Shreeve, to start a programme of reintroduction across the country.
The first batch is being sent out to schools this month.
Mr Shreeve said: "We want to interest a new generation in the elm, so much a feature of the British life and landscape for centuries and also to try and find out why some trees survived Dutch elm disease.
"So many have disappeared over recent years that we can only hope to replace some. But rather than just give up and forget the elm, we think it’s worth a try."
The initiative is called the Great British Elm Experiment, and aims to find out why a few trees did survive the fungus.
The English elm was actually introduced by the Romans. Tree experts believe all examples are descended from a single type of tree, brought over to help support vines.
As such the descendants are essentially clones. The resultant lack of genetic diversity may well have made them exceptionally susceptible to infection.