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Forest Research was commissioned to carry out this study following the discovery of Phytophthora ramorum (a tree disease which infects larch trees) close to Rowardennan in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, Scotland.  One way in which P. ramorum may be spread through the countryside is by recreationists such as walkers. Therefore this study with hikers and businesses in the Rowardennan area investigated the following:

  • What people know, what they think, and what they do, in relation to biosecurity and tree and plant health.
  • Who and what information sources they use and trust for finding out about issues relating to the environment, and plants and trees.
  • What facilities and resources they would require to be more ‘biosecure’, and where they would like these to be located.
  • What role local businesses could play in encouraging better biosecurity.

A short questionnaire was carried out with hikers at Rowardennan, primarily those walking the Ben Lomond Hill Path or the West Highland Way, but also hikers doing other walks in the local area. Interviews were conducted with key local organisations who have regular contact with walkers.

Research objectives

The aims of this study were to:

  • Add to the evidence about hikers’ knowledge and awareness of, and attitudes towards, tree health and biosecurity.
  • Inform interventions designed to encourage positive biosecurity behaviours for tree health among visitors to the countryside.

Findings and Recommendations

Please note: The following recommendations are based on the views of the hikers and businesses who participated in questionnaires and interviews. 

1. Design biosecurity messaging that links to peoples’ values and motivations.

Ensure that it emphasises how scenery and wildlife will be impacted by tree diseases such as P. ramorum.

2. Frame biosecurity messages that link to the environmental threats that people are aware of and concerned about, for example:

  • Visitor impacts – The spread of tree pests and diseases can be framed as another visitor impact.
  • Climate Change – Climate Change could increase the likelihood of new diseases and pests.
  • Loss of biodiversity – Loss of biodiversity could occur as a result of tree pests and diseases.

3. Use peoples’ motivations for boot cleaning to encourage better biosecurity.

People clean their boots for cleanliness or to protect and prolong the life of the boots. Connect biosecurity action messages to these motivations for cleaning to more successfully increase positive biosecurity in hikers.

4. Provide biosecurity information through sources and organisations people already use.

People get information about the environment and about plants and trees online, and conservation organisations were mentioned as trusted sources.

5. Provide biosecurity information where people say it would be useful.

Respondents wanted to see information at the start of trails, along trails, at carparks and places such as the Rowardennan toilet block. They also wanted information to be online and in the press.

6. Provide biosecurity equipment where people say it would be useful.

People want to be able to access cleaning equipment (for boots etc) at carparks, at the start of routes, at points along hiking routes, at visitor centres and locations like the toilet block building at Rowardennan. (Note – this is what hikers said they would like to have available but for this to be implemented there are considerable practical and resourcing issues that would need to be addressed)

7. Businesses and organisations would welcome more information to help them inform their customers and visitors about issues around biosecurity.

There is willingness to provide biosecurity equipment for hikers, and it was felt important to be able to add information and interpretation to existing facilities in order to raise awareness and encourage use.


Hall, C., Marzano, M. & O’Brien, L. (2020) Understanding how best to engage recreationists in biosecurity to reduce the impacts of tree diseases a review. Emerging Topics in Life Sciences 4 (5), 531-538.

Our Involvement

Staff at Forest Research designed and delivered the research, and produced the report for this project, with support (for fieldwork) from Forestry Commission (England) staff.


Funding & partners
  • fls logo stacked downloadable jpg 2rqavybThis work was commissioned by the Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS), now Scottish Forestry
Forestry Staff ClareHall.2e16d0ba.fill 600x600 1
Clare Hall

Behavioural Scientist

Forestry Staff MarzanoMariella.2e16d0ba.fill 600x600 1
Mariella Marzano

Principal Social Scientist