East Sussex Elm expert warns weather and cuts in funding means 'death sentence' for trees (From The Argus)
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East Sussex Elm expert warns weather and cuts in funding means 'death sentence' for trees
Recent weather and cuts in funding have delivered the “death sentence” for the remaining elm trees in the county, a leading expert has warned.
Monty Larkin, who ran the East Sussex elm tree protection scheme from 2004 to 2007, is urging councils to “act now” or lose the trees forever.
He explained that warm weather had resulted in an explosion in the number of elm balk beetles which carry the deadly Dutch Elm Disease.
He said: “Unfortunately I think it is too late for the trees in the control area between Brighton and Eastbourne.
“Once they have gone we will never see the like again in the area.
“The fear is the beetles will now spread to Brighton and Hove and Eastbourne where the reaming elms are located.
“The threat is extremely serious and we must act now.”
Dutch Elm Disease wiped out some 25 million of the trees across the UK in the 20th century.
Most of elms in Sussex were saved thanks to the natural protection of the South Downs on one side and English Channel on the other.
Brighton and Hove's elm population fared particularly well with the remaining 17,000 receiving national collection status in 1990s.
A lack of investment in prevention measures and the recent warm weather is now putting the remaining trees at risk, Mr Larkin argues.
“The beetles only travel in temperatures over 21c so the conditions have been ideal.
They have covered the area between Brighton and Eastbourne.
“If the wind blows in the right direction then they could soon be infecting the reaming trees.”
With councils increasingly looking to save money, Mr Larkin has warned the cost of not acting could end up being more expensive in the future.
He has estimated that felling all infected elms in Brighton, Seaford and Eastbourne would come in at more than £25m.
“Local authorities must act now.
“They should be looking at making use of outside funding.
“One avenue being pursued is using National Lottery money to inject fungicide into the remaining specimen trees in the East Sussex and Brighton and Hove area.
“This is not the answer to the aforementioned facts but could at least salvage something from this mess.”
Last month five elms riddled with disease were felled in Brighton and Hove with other sporadic outbreaks reported across the city.
Brighton and Hove City Council described recent developments as “extremely worrying” and have called on residents to look out for signs of the disease.
For more information and the symptoms visit theargus.co.uk/trees
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