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Ash trees in danger of extinction in Europe

Europe may be looking at the end of the economically and ecologically valuable ash tree, according to new reports. The prized tree is under attack from invasive insects and fungus.

Ash trees across Europe are facing massive dieback, according to a new report released on Saturday. According to German news agency DPA, researchers admitted that there was no way to stop the spread of disease.

Gertrude Nachtigall of the Julius Kuehn Institute in the German city of Braunschweig said that the deadly Hymenoscyphus pseudoalbidus fungus, an invasive species native to Asia, was spread by the wind and therefore impossible to contain.

Ash trees are also under another threat around the world - from the emerald ash borer beetle, another invasive species. Originally found only in parts of Russia, China, Japan and the Korean peninsula, the beetle has so far killed tens of millions of ash trees in North America and threatens to destroy the continent's entire population of the valuable trees.

A recent paper in the Journal of Ecology warned about "large-scale mortality events" of ash trees in Europe and the United Kingdom, saying that the "ecologically important" species has been threatened by dieback for at least two decades. The ash tree is now in danger of extinction in Europe, the paper concluded.

The extremely durable but elastic wood is prized for its use in making musical instruments, such as guitars and violin bows, tool handles and baseball bats. Its leaves are also commonly used to feed livestock animals such as cows and goats in winter months. Ash trees are also favored as food by cocooning butterflies and moths.

es/jm (dpa)

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