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Forest Research and the Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera) were partners in a Tree Health Survey organised by OPAL (Open Air Laboratories), launched in May 2013.

The Survey asks members of the public to examine the trees in their local area and to keep a special eye out for pests and diseases, particularly those affecting oak, ash and horse chestnut.

The activities include:

  • Identifying trees;
  • Measuring their girth and height;
  • Examining the trunk, branches and leaves for signs of poor health and recording the presence of specific pests and diseases.

The OPAL Tree Health Survey also includes a guide to six of the ‘Most Unwanted’ pests and diseases which could spell disaster for forests if they spread across the UK; for example, diseases such as ash dieback and pests like the emerald ash borer.

About OPAL

OPAL, led by Imperial College London, was a nationwide partnership initiative to inspire communities to discover, enjoy and protect their local environments. OPAL provided the skills and materials needed for national community-led studies of the world around us. OPAL was funded by a Big Lottery Fund – Changing Spaces grant.

More information on OPAL and the Tree Health Survey can be found on the OPAL website; survey packs are also available for download, which include a tree identification guide, field notebook and field guide (which gives information about the ‘Most Unwanted’ at the time of publication).

Summary paper

How Effective Are Citizen Scientists at Contributing to Government Tree Health Public Engagement and Surveillance Needs—An Analysis of the UK Open Air Laboratories (OPAL) Survey Model
by David D. Slawson and Andy J. Moffat
Insects 2020, 11(9), 550;

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Tools & Resources

Related research


Ash dieback impact

This project assesses the potential ecological impact of the disease ash dieback on UK woodlands and species and investigates possible solutions which might be achieved through woodland management.

Status completed