Acute oak decline is an unexplained natural phenomenon that has been decimating the population of the Welsh and English oak trees for over three decades. It most commonly affects mature English and sessile oaks that are over about half a century old. The issue has also been found to bother younger specimens and several other subspecies of oak trees.
Afflicted specimens often always have vertical, weeping fissures that give off a black liquid that eerily looks much like blood. Lying beneath that is a lesion wherein living tissue from the tree is exposed. As things progress, the canopy slowly gets smaller until it’s completely free of leaves. In any case, the average time it takes for an oak that’s sick to die is between five to six years. Nevertheless, it isn’t rare for some trees to last quite longer because of their resilient nature. Still, even these special oaks eventually pass away if humans don’t intervene and ease their condition.
Experts have found the larval galleries of the buprestid beetle inside the lesions of trees that are sick. In addition to that, analysis of samples from decaying matter has proven that several types of bacteria are thriving there. Hence, many experts say that the acute oak decline is caused by stress caused by parasites and the bacteria which they carry. Despite that, scientists are still debating on what the actual cause of the problem is and why it’s killing off England’s oak trees. Consult a tree surgeon if you have any suspicions.
Because the cause of the acute oak decline isn’t known, it sadly doesn’t have a cure. However, the Woodland Trust and other organisations have created a list of guidelines for people to follow if ever they encounter an affected tree. Furthermore, precautions have also been established to contain the issue and prevent it from spreading into other parts of the UK and beyond. After all, acute oak decline is aggressive and has the ability to effortlessly contaminate nearby specimens.
Arborists are generally advised to avoid pruning afflicted trees as doing so makes the less able to withstand bacterial infections. Moreover, they also shouldn’t fell oaks when it’s wet outside as doing so increase the risk of spreading any pathogens. Aside from that, it is essential not to use any part of a felled specimens for recycling. Instead, the best option is to simply burn all the remains and then disinfect all the equipment that was used to cut the tree down.
Fortunately, the acute oak decline hasn’t left Britain’s shores. Additionally, the Forest Research with funding from Defra has worked in collaboration with many scientists, universities, research organizations, and stakeholders to actively work on finding the exact cause of the natural phenomena in order to manage its spread and hopefully come up with an effective treatment for it. Thanks to that, people can look forward to a bright future where the oaks of England are no longer stricken with the “disease” which has already taken the lives of so many of them.