Muppet Magic

“It’s time to play the music / It’s time to light the lights / It’s time to meet the Muppets on the Muppet show tonight.” If you are in your thirties or forties chances are you know the lines to that song and the show it comes from. The Muppets, a cast of colourful and […]

All Aboard

Massive ships holding thousands of people, all you can eat buffets and large crowds pushing into port cities – for some, this is what they think of when cruising as a holiday comes up. Others however look at cruising the high seas as the chance to meet many new people, try lots of different foods […]

Five Reasons to Read this Article

The title certainly looks familiar. A number of websites use the so-called ‘listicle’ format. In fact the form seems to be the favourite style on the net. Everything from humour websites to more serious news sites present information with bullet points. If you ‘dumb down’ a topic, you make it easier for people to understand. […]


Those concerned about environmental issues can make themselves sick worrying about the environment. There are so many problems – air pollution, water pollution, global warming, endangered species. But maybe they would be pleased to know a solution exists, which is kind of cool. Figurative Language: Move in: Usually, we use this for people, but here […]

Less is More

If he were alive, JD Salinger would be 95 this year. The reclusive author died only four years ago, but he didn’t write much. With a collection of short stories, four novellas and a novel, which is itself rather terse, he is a writer whose reputation is bigger than his productivity. Maybe that’s the point. […]

Lethal Leaves

In the last couple of decades, a fungal disease called Ash Dieback has been killing Europe’s ash trees. The Forestry Commission in Britain has turned to a high-tech solution to keep the disease in check. They have developed an app so the general public can help monitor the spread of the fungus.

If something is kept ‘in check’ it is being watched and controlled.

Ash Dieback is caused by the fungus Hymenoscyphus pseudoalbidus, which was first described in 2006. However, it is believed the infection started in 1992 in Poland, having since spread across Europe. The fungus attacks living ash trees. The origin of the fungus is unknown, though scientists think it could have come from Asia since the ash trees in Asia are immune to it.

The fungus has been shown to attack a number of ash species: the European ash, the Narrow-leafed ash and Manna ash as well as North American species such as the Black ash and Green ash. Infection first appears as dark spots on leaves and branches. Over time the fungus causes leaf loss and eventual death. Forestry commissions take the disease seriously because of its potential to ravage forests. In Denmark the fungus has destroyed between 60 to 90% of ash trees.

The banks of a river are its sides, the land next to the water.

Ash trees are very important to the local ecosystem. Their large root systems help to stabilize the banks of rivers and streams. The trees also provide a home for a number of insect and bird species. An article by Marco Pautasso et al states that the full number of species which depend on ash trees is not completely known. However, they say that certain species of fungus are definitely specific to the ash. These species may provide food for other species so the loss of ash trees could have a wider impact on European ecology.

‘To stem’ something is to stop it.

Given the threat of this disease, it is understandable why the UK Forestry Commission wants to stem the spread of the disease. The app is a good weapon in this fight.

“Our Tree Alert app and on-line reporting form are proving an effective tool for monitoring suspected cases of Chalara ash dieback and, now, other pests and diseases of trees in Great Britain,” said a Forestry Commission spokesperson.

“It enables us to engage a larger number of ‘eyes and ears’ around Britain to report possible cases to us than if we relied on professional surveyors alone. It also gives the public an opportunity to feel personally involved in helping to protect Britain’s trees, woods, forests and natural heritage. We are continuing to develop Tree Alert in the light of experience to maximise the quality of the reports sent to us.”

Original article by Ryan Scott – Sydney, Australia. Text edited by The Word’s methodology team