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Tree fungus threat to Greek tavernas

- by Joe Mason

A fatal fungus is threatening the future of Greek island plane trees and there doesn't appear to be any solution.

Visitors to many Greek Island tavernas will recall sitting in the cool shade of huge plane trees that often grace the centre of most villages. But a fatal fungus is threatening their future as it spreads rapidly across mainland Greece and experts fear it could easily spread to the islands.

Scientists are increasingly worried about the spread of the fungus 'ceratocystis platani' which kills off deciduous trees like the plane and warn that Greece could lose all of them within a decade.

The fungus was first identified in 2003 on mainland Greece and now affects thousands of trees. It was once confined to the Americas but is thought to have been brought to Europe by American GIs in the Second World War.

The lethal fungus has spread through Italy and France before it was spotted in the Messinia region of Greece. According to the Institute of Mediterranean Forest Ecosystems the disease has spread through the Peloponnese, Epirus and Thessaly.

It is believed humans are that main agent for spreading the disease with fungus transferred by forest workers' tools such as wooden boxes and chainsaws although the fungus spores can be blown on the wind from one tree to another.

Experts fear the disease could spread right across Greece unless existing areas are brought under strict quarantine. If it spreads to the island it could be the end of the shady plane trees that form cool canopies for many Greek Islands tavernas.