Published June 24, 2020 | Version Version 1.0
Dataset Open

Chalara: Ash Die-back Virtual Woodland Environment


Chalara dieback of ash (Fraxinus excelsior) is a disease of ash trees caused by the fungus Chalara fraxinea. The disease causes leaf loss and crown dieback, usually leading to tree death. First found in the UK in February 2012, local spread is by wind and by movement of diseased plants over longer distances.

Woodlands in Scotland are infected, the distribution of sites of which is reported by the Forestry Commission, and can be viewed on the interactive  Chalara (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus) infection map. Background information on the disease, its origins, symptoms and precautions to reduce risks of spread are available from the Forestry Commission here.

The James Hutton Institute has developed a Virtual Reality model to present information about the symptoms and different stages and spread of infection of Chalara ash dieback on woodlands. The model was designed to represent characteristics of the vegetation and topography of a site in north-west Scotland.

Interactive functions have been included which enable the presentation of a narrative about the Chalara Ash Dieback threat to woodlands, including scenarios of spread of infection, symptoms of infection, the death of trees, and the regeneration of woodland. 

The model can be downloaded and used in a PC or virtual reality environment. Guidelines are provided, and links to the relevant software for its use.  

Software: The software required to use the model in Virtual Reality is ‘BS Contact Stereo’. The free to use, demonstration version of the software package can be download from here.

The 3D model can be used through BS Contact Stereo for a Virtual Reality headset (e.g. Oculus Rift).

[Note: Users may notice a ‘blue dot’ floating across the screen when they are exploring the Virtual Reality model. That has no effect or role in the model. It is a feature of the demonstration free-to-use package.]

Start model: To start the model, users should load and play the file: AshDieback_Main.wrl.

Navigation: Navigation of the 3D environment of the woodland can be by use of a keyboard or Xbox controller.

More information about the model and disease are is available at: Chalara: Ash Die-back Virtual Woodland Environment

Photographs can be accessed of the Virtual Reality model in use with an Oculus Rift headset, and in the Virtual Landscape Theatre.


Further information about the Virtual Landscape Theatre and its use in knowledge exchange can be found at:


James Hutton Institute Ash Dieback Virtual Reality

Files (231.0 MB)

Additional details


  • Wang, C., Miller, D.R., Horne, P.., Jiang, Y., Donaldson-Selby, G. and Morrice, J. (2015) Visualisation of spread of Chalara ash dieback for raising public awareness and responsible woodland access., GIS Research UK 2015, Leeds, 15-17 April 2015. Proceedings, Chapter 69: 653-658.