A killer-tree fungus, which has been described as impossible to stop, has taken hold in Tyrone’s forests with ten confirmed outbreaks so far.
There are fears that Ash dieback disease, which is rife in mainland Europe, might soon be out of control in local areas.
A total of six infected woodlands have been found in the Dungannon District area alone.
The Forestry Commission has just completed a survey of Northern Ireland’s trees to gain a clearer picture of how the disease has spread in the wild, recording all the infected sites.
The report reveals that Northern Ireland is a hotspot for the disease, with only Norfolk, Suffolk and Kent worse affected in the UK.
In all there have been ninety-three positive sightings of the disease in Northern Ireland to date. Ninety were recently planted sites, with an additional three findings in nursery or retail settings.
More than 80,000 trees have been destroyed to curb the spread of the disease in the region.
Of the confirmed outbreaks, 63 were found in forestry plantations, three in nursery or trade sites, nine in urban amenity settings, three on roadsides, 10 in private gardens and four in hedgerows.
According to the forestry commission, the diseased plants are linked to imports.
“Ongoing action is being taken to destroy the saplings and debris, and survey work is continuing”, said the commission.
“Legislation is now in force to prevent the introduction and spread of Ash Dieback here through plants, seeds and wood.”
In response to the threat posed by the disease, the Department of Agriculture has launched a woodland expansion scheme to encourage large scale tree planting, as well as a forest protection scheme to support owners restore their woodlands following tree disease findings.
Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill said: “I expect these schemes to open later in 2015 in readiness for the 2015/16 tree planting season. The new scheme will also include support aimed at planting small areas of woodland.” The minister urged members of the public to be aware of the symptoms of ash dieback.