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Chalara Ash dieback: Engaging the Public

Chalara dieback of ash is a disease of ash trees caused by the fungus Chalara fraxinea. The disease causes leaf loss and crown dieback, usually leading to tree death. First found in the UK February 2012, local spread is by wind and by movement of diseased plants over longer distances.

Woodlands in Scotland are infected, the distribution of sites of which is reported by the Forestry Commission, and can be viewed on the interactive map here. Background information on the disease, its origins, symptoms and precautions to reduce risks of spread are available from the Forestry Commission here

The importance of raising public awareness of the disease, and the precautions to take which reduce the risk of spread is identified in the Chalara Action Plan for Scotland. In collaboration between RBGE, Forestry Commission, Forest Research, James Hutton Institute and partners, a public exhibition was developed for display at the John Hope Gateway, RBGE, and the Scottish Science Centres. Watch the video from the exhibit Moving Forward from Ash Dieback.

Take the video walk-through of a virtual reality model of a hypothetical woodland in north-west Scotland to learn what signs to look for, informing you of a woodland being infected (red sign) or uninfected (blue sign), photographs of symptoms of the disease, and view scenarios of the loss of ash trees and regeneration of woodland trees.

 Video walk-through of woodland showing scenarios of Chalara ash dieback in a virtual reality model

If you would like a copy of the virtual reality model to try on your own PC, please email and we will provide a download link.

To reduce the risk of spreading the fungus, when visiting our woodlands, do not remove sticks, leaves or cuttings, and clean your 'Boots, Bicycles and Buggies'.

One element of the exhibition was use of the Virtual Landscape Theatre to present scenarios of spread and potential impacts of the disease on ash woodland (event flier here).The exhibit was presented at the John Hope Gateway Centre, RBGE (August 2013), and the touring exhibition was presented at Scottish Science centres (Satrosphere, Aberdeen), reaching an estimated 100,000 people at all venues across Scotland. Feedback on the initative was presented to stakeholders in Scottish Government, public agencies and research groups through the Scottish Centre for Rural Research.

Further details of the event can be found on the information notes here.

VLT in Real Life Science Studio, John Hope Gateway, RBGEMoving Forward from Ash Dieback: VLT@John Hope Gateway

Further information about the virtual reality model is available here. The virtual reality model can be downloaded from the Zenodo repository for use on a PC or with a virtual reality headset.

A gallery of photographs is available showing the VLT@John Hope Gateway and Satrosphere.

Background to the development of the model is reported in the paper presented at GISRUK 2015, University of Leeds on Visualisation of spread of Chalara ash dieback for raising public awareness and responsible woodland access.


Acknowledgements: Thanks to the participants in the Moving Forward from Ash Dieback events at RBGE and Satrosphere. This work for the Chalara Action Plan was part funded by the  Rural & Environment Science & Analytical Services Division of the Scottish Government, Optimizing Land Use (WP3.5.5), the Ecosystem Services Theme (WP1.1.5), and the RBGE.



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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.