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Sussex success story of endangered elms

* 20 November 2003 *

Sussex success story of endangered elms

Thirty years ago the country's elms faced extinction from Dutch Elm Disease. A  rare collection of English Elms survives at the University of Sussex.

In the early Seventies, the founders of National Tree Week (26 November to 7 December 2003) campaigned to raise awareness of the plight of the English Elm, threatened by a new strain of Dutch Elm Disease.

The local authority was already taking action to save elms in the Brighton area when the issue gained national prominence. A determined campaign to treat Brighton's affected trees saved many others from falling sick, including the elms at the University of Sussex.

David Streeter, reader in ecology at the University of Sussex, said: "The campus boasts one of the most important populations of elms left in the country following the ravages of Dutch Elm Disease. Between 1970 and 1987 we lost 195 elms from campus through Dutch Elm Disease and the Great Storm of October 1987. The true English Elm, Ulmus procera, is now very rare because the species is particularly susceptible to the damaging Dutch Elm Disease fungus. Today, we have 22 mature English Elms among 31 elm trees on campus."

Trees have an important place in the university's history. A tree survey carried out in the late Fifties revealed 300 mature trees on the site. University architect Sir Basil Spence worked around the trees when he designed the landscape for the campus buildings.

David Streeter said: "No healthy established trees were removed to make way for the university development. The university estates department carries out regular checks and monitors the condition of all our campus trees to preserve them for future generations to enjoy."

Kevin Hand, Tree Council campaigns director and co-ordinator of National Tree Week, said: "It is wonderful that anyone visiting the University of Sussex can enjoy such a large elm population in beautiful surroundings. The Tree Council congratulates Brighton for the work done to preserve so many thriving examples of these magnificent trees."

* Notes for editors *

David Streeter is available for pictures with the campus elms or further comment.

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