A disease that has the potential to wipe out large areas of the UK's Ash tree population has been recorded for the first time in the wild in the British Isles.
Chalara dieback, caused by a fungus called Chalara fraxinea, has now been confirmed at two sites in Norfolk and Suffolk.
Ash trees suffering with C. fraxinea have been found across mainland Europe, with Denmark reporting the disease has wiped out about 90% of its Ash trees. Experts say that if the disease becomes established, then it could have a similar impact on the landscape as Dutch elm disease had in the 1970s.
Until now, the disease had only been recorded in a few nursery specimens, albeit at widespread locations throughout the British Isles. The latest outbreaks lead to fears that the disease has been carried on the wind from mainland Europe.
Chalara dieback of Ash has been listed as a quarantine pathogen under national emergency measures, and the Forestry Commission has produced guidelines, including help on identifying signs of infection.
John Milton, Norfolk Wildlife Trust's head of nature reserves said that "it is likely we will now see further cases". A government consultation on whether to ban imports of ash trees in the UK is taking place and it is widely expected that legislation will be passed in time for a ban to be in force next month.