A SCIENTIST from the Royal Botanical Gardens Kew has detailed the "devastation" Ash dieback has caused across the UK – and offered some hope for the future. 

The disease – which was first detected on these shores in 2012 – is on course to decimate the country’s ash population, with some estimates suggesting 75–95 per cent will be lost in the next 20 to 30 years.

As a result, major felling operations have taken place in parts of the nation, with foresters rushing to remove ash afflicted with dieback. Elsewhere, a number of local authorities have drawn up 'action plans' amid calls for more drastic measures. 

READ MORE: Simon Bowes examines the ongoing crisis of ash dieback in the UK

Speaking on Radio 5 Live this week, Professor Richard Buggs said: "We can see the devastation it is causing all around us. In the countryside, you see these ash trees looking like skeletons, rather than green, healthy trees.

"It is absolutely tragic and it is making a big difference to our landscape.

"Ash is a major part of the countryside in many parts of the country. They make a massive contribution to our countryside; lots of other species depend on them." 

When asked if climate change was a factor in the disease's spread, Prof Buggs said: "It is definitely playing a role in the changes we see in the landscape, but in this particular case it's not so much the fault of climate change that we've got this problem.

"It's more because humans are moving pests and pathogens around the world in quantities that we have never done before. 

"So, we're seeing pandemics like we are with ash trees, but also in other species, too.

"That's because globalisation has led to global trade. We;re moving trees like never before and inadvertently spreading micro-organism that damage eco-systems. 

"We realise more and more what a huge risk we run if we don't have biosecurity. These things do have to be done. 

"The damage that can be caused by these pests and pathogens runs into billions of pounds." 

However, all hope might not be lost. Prof Buggs went on to detail the discovery of DNA in some ash trees, which could pave the way for selective breeding of dieback-resistant saplings. 

READ MORE: Ash dieback: why trees will last much longer than people in Britain think

"We're way past the point were we can try to eradicate it," he said. "We have to learn the lesson to stop future pathogens coming in.

"With Ash dieback, we have to learn to live with it by helping our ash population learn to adapt. The good news is there appears to be some trees that can live with it.

"We've found places in the DNA we think makes them more resistant to Ash dieback; we can use that to form a breeding programme.

"If we plant them, hopefully our new plantations will be able to have ash."