Mole Valley District Council (MVDC) is assuming control of woodlands in the area to help fight the Ash Dieback tree fungus.

MVDC announced earlier this week that it would be taking direct control of several woodlands in the region, starting in April.

The council plans to use this time to monitor the growth and spread of the Ash Dieback disease (Chalara, Hymenoscyphus fraxineus), a chronic fungal disease prevalent in Europe that causes leaf loss and crown dieback—the decay and death of foliage on affected tree canopies.

The disease is spread by the wind carrying fungal spores through ash woodlands, and is frequently fatal to infected trees.

MVDC is urging residents to remain vigilant and report any signs of the disease.

According to the Woodland Trust, symptoms of ash dieback include dark lesions on tree trunks, blackened dead leaves, the loss of foliage at the tops of trees and, in summer, small white fruiting fungal bodies found on blackened leaf stalks.

Cabinet Member for Wellbeing, Councillor David Hawksworth CBE commented on the council's plans, highlighting MVDC's efforts and warning that the spread of the disease could persist regardless of any actions taken by the authority or residents.

Cllr Hawksworth said: "As of April 2019 we will be directly managing all our woodland sites ourselves.

"We monitor our trees closely and endeavour to identify those trees that have some degree of resistance and should be retained, whilst there will be many that we cannot."

The MVDC cabinet member added that moves to replant affected trees could be taken, adding that resistance to the disease amongst ash trees could be higher than previously thought.

Cllr Hawksworth said: "Where appropriate, we will look at replanting replacement native trees to contribute towards Mole Valley’s efforts at securing a resilient treescape.

"It had been estimated that around 7 per cent of ash trees could have some resistance to this disease, but the latest research suggests this could be as much as 20 per cent.

"Our response to this has to balance the health and safety and financial implications with the need to try and preserve any potential disease-resistant ash trees."

MVDC meanwhile urged landowners and residents to report any sightings of the disease, which often takes the form of light-coloured fungal spores.

MVDC said: "Whilst Ash Die Back is not a new tree disease, cases of it have begun to appear in the district and landowners are being asked to stay vigilant and follow current Forestry Commission guidelines.

The Woodland Trust describes Ash trees as being "very important" both culturally but also in the space they occupy in European ecology.

The organization has warned that halting the spread of the disease is not guaranteed and has urged anyone who notices a possible case of the disease to report it to their local authority immediately.

Said the Woodland Trust via its online ash dieback FAQ: "There is little we can do to halt its spread and the full impact of the disease is still an unknown.

"To protect your wood for as long as possible, monitor it for signs and report any suspect tree, follow biosecurity precautions and don’t move seeds, twigs, leaves or other plant material from site to site."