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Summary of Programme

The importance of pests and diseases associated with forest and woodlands in the UK has never been greater, with highly damaging outbreaks, evidence of greater spread and impact, new organisms being introduced through trade pathways, and established pest threats exacerbated by changes in climate and host availability.

This programme responds to these challenges, builds on recent progress in understanding and seeks to support sector preparedness for an enhanced response, to increase the range of techniques available to manage problems and guide environmental resilience from the local to national level.  Cross-cutting research with partners and collaborators will support the expansion of resilient treescapes and provide the evidence base for enhancing resilience to biotic challenges.

Work Group Areas

WA1: Diagnostic, advisory and phytosanitary provision

Operating and evolving FR’s Tree Health Diagnostic and Advisory Service (THDAS), providing an early warning system, detecting new biotic threats and prompting reactive research.  Reporting will be promoted via the web-based tool TreeAlert, and citizen science surveillance through Observatree. It integrates with phytosanitary work to evaluate risks from new and existing regulated pests and pathogens through horizon scanning and surveillance, thereby informing the responses of Plant Health teams, policymakers and practitioners.

WA2: Understanding pest and pathogen threats

Focussing on understanding new and changing pest and pathogen threats including invasive beetles (such as of Ips typographus) and pathogens with changing profiles or altered behaviour (including Dothistroma and Phytophthora) to determine the vulnerability of UK forest types to their establishment and to identify proactive management actions. There will also be a focus on host species, as part of an integrated approach to understand the susceptibility of new and emerging tree species to pests and diseases.

WA3: Improved detection, monitoring and surveillance

Develop existing and new methods for monitoring and surveillance of key pests and pathogens, based on a greater understanding of their ecology, dispersal capability, host preferences, epidemiology and genetics. Approaches include use of improved trapping methodologies, development of DNA based diagnostic tools and metabarcoding, and exploration of the use of remote sensing.

WA4: Pest and disease management for resilient treescapes

Informing forest management to increase resilience to pests and diseases. Work includes refining established management methods such as spatial modelling, chemical treatments and non-chemical or bio-control treatments. Novel methods will also be developed for control, improved prediction of pest spread, and use of viruses to control fungal pathogens. The WP also includes ongoing support and advice for control of mammal pests, particularly grey squirrels.

WA5: Interdisciplinary approaches to enhance biosecurity

Adopting an interdisciplinary approach on topics relevant to woodland expansion. It will harness natural resistance in tree populations, particularly oak, larch and juniper and explore the social dimensions of tree health including evaluation of biosecurity messaging on public behaviours and improving our understanding of the biosecurity practices of hard-to-reach stakeholder along plant pathways.

Key Topics

Tree Health Diagnostic and Advisory Servicepests; diseases; horizon scanning

Contributing Science Groups

  • Land Use and Ecosystem Services
  • Social & Economic Research Group
  • Urban Forest Research Group

Programme Manager

Mariella Marzano 

Work Area Co-Leads – Sarah Green, Daegan Inward, Roger Moore, Ana Perez-Sierra, Joan Webber, Dave Williams