Tree fungus 'could destroy enough woodland to fill Wembley 16 times'
Scientists predict 90% of the UK's ash trees will become infected with the fungus in the next ten years.
A disease which kills ash trees could destroy enough woodland to fill Wembley Stadium 16 times over, it has been claimed.
Scientists at the University of Edinburgh estimate 90% of the UK’s 126m ash trees will become infected with the fungus. The fungus causes ash dieback and has already had an impact on woodland.
Based on a similar epidemic in Lithuania, researchers predict 60% of infected trees could die in the next ten years.
The loss of large numbers of trees could aggravate climate change as they will no longer absorb and store carbon dioxide.
The overall impact of the tree deaths will depend on whether they are replaced by another species and, if so, how quickly. Many ash trees were planted in the 1970s and 80s to replace Dutch elms killed by a different fungus.
Dr Dave Reay, from the School of GeoSciences, said: "The loss of these trees is devastating enough for the landscape, but will also send big ripples through the ecosystem.
"Ash dieback will create a big splash in the environment's ability to remove carbon from the atmosphere, so understanding its impacts will be vital for informing woodland management in the future."
The study was published in the journal Atmospheric Environment.