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Acute oak decline disease prompts £1.1m research effort

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Project aims to understand distribution and severity of mystery disease causing Britain’s oak trees to ‘bleed to death’

A mystery disease causing Britain’s oak trees to “bleed to death” has prompted a £1.1m research effort to identify the cause.

The government-funded project aims to understand the distribution and severity of acute oak decline (AOD), a fast-acting disease than can bring about the death of an oak tree within 3-10 years of infection. AOD, first observed in the 1980s, is affecting several thousand oak trees across East Anglia, the Midlands and south-east England, but scientists do not know what is causing it. Thousands of trees are estimated to be affected.

Dr Sandra Denman, lead scientist on the project to identify the cause of AOD, said: “AOD is a serious problem for both of Britain’s native oak trees. Oak is our most important native broad-leafed tree species and is iconic to Britain.”

Dr John Morgan, head of the Forestry Commission’s Plant Health Service, said: “We are determined to do everything possible to protect our trees. AOD is a complex condition, and this new Defra funding will enable us to better understand the condition and the number and distribution of trees affected.”

At a biosecurity summit last week, the environment secretary, Owen Paterson, called for a united front against tree diseases: “It is clear that it is only by working together that we can do our best to protect our plants and trees.”

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