Sussex woodland is under threat by a highly destructive disease that is wiping out ash trees across Europe.
The Chalara fungus was found in a consignment of infected trees sent from the Netherlands to Buckinghamshire.
Since, it has spread to a number of woodlands across England and Scotland.
All cases have linked back to stocks of young ash plants from nurseries overseas in the past five years.
There have been no reports of cases appearing in West Sussex, but Dr Tony Whitbread, Sussex Wildlife Trust’s chief executive officer, believes it’s only a matter of time before the disease will reach our woodlands.
“Ash is a very common tree and it would be a major loss to our landscape.
“Dutch elm disease will look trivial if Chalara spreads here.”
Currently research is underway to stop the disease in its tracks, but West Sussex is in a race against time.
“There’s research going on at the moment and we hope action can be taken very quickly, but it depends how fast the disease will take over.”
Dr Whitbread is urging residents to stay vigilant for the deadly signs of Chalara fraxinea.
Symptoms include dieback of the shoots and twigs, fungul spores and black-brownish leaves.
“If the public could keep an eye out for the symptoms and report it to the Forestry Commission Health Service we can try to prevent an outbreak in West Sussex.”