Skip to main content
Contact Us

10.30 – 13.00, Tuesday 4th July 2023 (via Microsoft Teams)

Meeting chair: David Slawson (DS), Imperial College London

Microsoft Teams Organiser: Lucy Turner (LT), Forest Research, Alice Holt

Decisions and actions

THCSN Business

Actions/matters arising from February 2023 meeting

  • All actions were either discharged or were included on the agenda, except: Actions (A9 & A10) THCSN members/local authorities might be able to contribute to the three proposed Urban tree observatories in the “Branching Out” project.

Action (A1) DS to invite Alison Dyke to provide an update at the next meeting.

Website/Webpage

  • Tom Jenkins (Forest Research Wales) summarised usage (it is accessed up to 30 times a day) and summarised updates to the Network’s web pages, including new links to posts of meeting notes and to the Tree Health Citizen Science Learning Pathway.
  • Charles Lane (Fera) noted that the Defra Plant Health Portal is out of date and ought to include a link to the THCSN.

Action (A2) Jake Morris to raise the issue with Defra IT.

  • Ginette Alexander (Yorkshire Arboretum) urged members to publicise the website to their networks [Note: Tom Jenkins emphasised that, as the Terms of reference of the THCSN specify that “membership is on an individual rather than institutional basis”, members need agree any publicity with their institutions].

Action (A3) Members to publicise the THCSN to their networks.

  • Research/project summaries – few draft research summaries have been received and so the link to them has yet to activated.  The additional suggestion was made to include a covering inventory of projects for ease of reference.

Action (A4) DS to resend the template and worked example to members via jiscmail.

Action (A5) Research members to complete and return summaries of their project(s) past and present to Lucy Turner.

Action (A6) Lucy Turner/Tom Jenkins to load the summaries on the website (including a covering inventory) and activate the link.

Jiscmail continues to be the main channel for communications within the network.

Future meetings

  • February 2024 meeting will be held via MS Teams.
  • July 2024 meeting will be hybrid in person meeting at Forest Research Alice Holt and via MS Teams.

Action (A7) DS to arrange dates for the meetings and LT to send MS Calendar invitations to the meetings.

Priority actions update

Tree health citizen science ‘learning pathway’ (DS)

The Plant Biosecurity Strategy for Great Britain 2023-2028 was published on 9 January 2023. Publication of a ‘learning pathway’ is included as an action under Outcome 2 of the Strategy (“A society that values healthy plants”).  Following advice and input from the THCSN, the “learning pathway” was completed, including a voice-over kindly provided by Matilda Scharsach (Volunteer Development Office, Woodland Trust Scotland), the “Learning Pathway” was published on the THCSN website in May 2023.

Jake Morris (Defra) made the point that to be of value, the ‘learning pathway’ to be kept up to date and needs to be publicised more by THCSN members (e.g. during National Plant Health Week in May 2024).

Action (A8) DS to arrange regular review of the ‘learning pathway’, including seeking updates from members.

Action (A9) Jake Morris to consider ways for Defra to publicise the ‘learning pathway’.

Enhance the tree health surveillance network (DS and Peter Crow)

Observatree has “associate agreements” in place with: National Trust Scotland, Nature Scot, Association of Tree Officers, English Heritage, The Yorkshire Arboretum, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Royal Botanic Garden Kew (including Wakehurst Place) and Gravetye Estate.

No further progress has been made with the Royal Horticultural Society but discussions are continuing.

UK Garden Sentinel Network (UK GSN)

The main development has been very positive trilateral discussions between Observatree, PlantNetwork and Botanic Garden Conservation International about creation of UK Garden Sentinel Network.

Mercy Morris (PlantNetwork) gave a presentation on the concept.

  • The proposal is modelled on the experience gained in the US through the Sentinel Plant Network, which is a collaboration between the American Public Gardens Association and the National Plant Diagnostic Network (NPDN).
  • UKGSN would contribute significantly to the outcomes of the Plant Biosecurity Strategy, particularly:
    • A World class biosecurity regime.
    • A society that values healthy plants.
    • An enhanced technical capacity.
  • Key outputs will include:
    • More ‘eyes on the ground’ to detect new or unusual symptoms / pests / disease.
    • Plant collection managers better informed on pest and diseases issues and including monitoring as part of general surveillance activities.
    • More rigorous, consistent and centralised reporting (both positive and negative results).
    • More opportunities for engagement and training of volunteers.
    • Opportunities for public awareness initiatives through the network of plant collections.
    • More ‘eyes on the ground’ to detect new or unusual symptoms / pests / disease.
    • Plant collection managers better informed on pest and diseases issues and including monitoring as part of general surveillance activities.
    • More rigorous, consistent and centralised reporting (both positive and negative results).
    • More opportunities for engagement and training of volunteers.
    • Opportunities for public awareness initiatives through the network of plant collections.
    • More ‘eyes on the ground’ to detect new or unusual symptoms / pests / disease.
    • Plant collection managers better informed on pest and diseases issues and including monitoring as part of general surveillance activities.
    • More rigorous, consistent and centralised reporting (both positive and negative results).
    • More opportunities for engagement and training of volunteers.
    • Opportunities for public awareness initiatives through the network of plant collections.
    • More ‘eyes on the ground’ to detect new or unusual symptoms / pests / disease.
    • Plant collection managers better informed on pest and diseases issues and including monitoring as part of general surveillance activities.
    • More rigorous, consistent and centralised reporting (both positive and negative results).
    • More opportunities for engagement and training of volunteers.
    • Opportunities for public awareness initiatives through the network of plant collections.
  • Reporting of pests and diseases
    • Botanic garden staff, volunteers and visitors will use TreeAlert to submit reports of pests and diseases on trees.
    • The IPSN’s Plant Health Checker (available in app and paper format) will be used to report pest and diseases on other plants.

In the discussion:

  • Samantha Green provided a link to the PlantAlert citizen science project for gardeners recording invasive garden plants.
  • Peter Crow and Charles Lane offered assistance to discuss provision of training.
  • Jake Morris commented on the benefits of linking complementary activities in this way.

Action (A10) DS to continue development of the UK Garden Sentinel Network not only with PlantNetwork and Botanic Garden Conservation International but to include APHA, Fera and others as appropriate.

Update from partners/guests

Biosecurity alerts- early detection via Australia’s largest biodiversity data infrastructure – a lesson for the UK?

Dr Erin Roger – Atlas of Living Australia (CSIRO) gave a presentation the launch of a “Biosecurity Hub” on the Atlas of Living Australia.

The Atlas of Living Australia (ALA), Australia’s national biodiversity data infrastructure:

  • Aggregates and visualises occurrence records of plant, animals and fungi specie of >125 million occurrence records, in over 2,200 datasets from over 850 data providers.
  • Provides open access to Australia’s biodiversity data.
  • The ALA also holds more than 2,300 introduced species and over 1.9 million occurrences of pests, weeds and agricultural diseases.

The “Biosecurity Hub”

  • To aid the research and management of introduced and invasive species, the ALA has been developing new data infrastructure, and partnering on several biosecurity initiatives.
  • In 2020, the ALA started working with the national Environmental Biosecurity Office (EBO) in the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE) to develop ways for the ALA The Atlas of Living Australia and its large network of biodiversity data providers to help protect Australia’s flora and fauna from exotic biosecurity threats.
  • The ALA holds more than 2,300 introduced species and over 1.9 million occurrences of pests, weeds and agricultural diseases.
  • Furthermore, through automated aggregation of data from over 850 data partners, the ALA is an essential resource for biosecurity detection, and is often the first platform where new biosecurity incursions are detected.
  • Citizens report via iNaturalist on alien pest, disease and plants.
  • Data are managed, presented and visualised using the databases and IT and infrastructure of the Atlas of Living Australia which was used originally for species of biodiversity interest (in the UK the National Biodiversity Network Trust uses the same infrastructure).
  • The hub includes an Alert System to provide official services with early warning of sightings – successes to date include founding evidence of threats up to 24 months before biosecurity agencies were otherwise notified.
  • In response to concerns about sharing sensitive data (an issue for biosecurity officials), Erin shared a link to the National Framework for the Sharing of Restricted Access Species Data in Australia (RASD).

Action A11 DS to continue explore with UK tree health officials the possibility of developing a system similar to the ALA Biosecurity Hub – starting perhaps with tree pest and pathogen species data collected by the UK’s Observatree citizen science project.

Update from partners and projects

Policy: Defra and policy developments (Jake Morris)

  • The GB Plant Biosecurity Strategy – Published in January 2023 (citizen science is contained under Outcome 2 “a society that values healthy plant”) including the aforementioned ‘Learning Pathway for Tree Health Citizen Science’.
  • Work is now in progress on the implementation/action plan.
  • National Plant Health Week included elements such as: “Don’t Risk It”, encouragement of responsible plant buying, reporting of suspicious sightings using TreeAlert and a continuation of Check a sweet chestnut.
  • Defra and RHS are in discussion about a biosecurity training module
  • Plant Health Public Engagement Accord – 31 signatories, targeting specific areas and use of common messaging.
  • A review of the Tree Health Resilience Strategy is underway; its scope is much wider than just pests and diseases.
  • Research ongoing into public behaviours on buying plants (including online buying), behaviours when returning from abroad and dissonance between personal actions and risks.

Action A12 Defra (Jake Morris/ Steph Godliman) to present in February 2024 on: (a) GB Plant Biosecurity Strategy – progress on implementation and (b) Tree Health Resilience Strategy.

Policy: Review of UK risk register, especially potential targets for Citizen Science (Charles Lane, Fera)

  • Risk Register has increased from 800 to 1,200 pests and diseases.
  • New additions added or under consideration relevant to t tress include: Lonsdalea populi (a bacterial canker of poplar similar to Acute Oak Decline on oak) and Sycamore Sooty Bark Diseases (Cryptostroma cordicale).
  • Observatree project focuses on around 20 ‘priority’ pest and diseases.
  • Chalara and Horse chestnut leaf mining moth, although common in much of the country have both been retained because there are areas of Scotland where these species have yet to be detected and also because of the positive motivation people finding something.
  • Elm Zig-zag sawfly and Beech Leaf Diseases have been added to Observatree’s list of ‘priority’ pest and diseases.

Action: Observatree (Peter Crow, Forest Research)

  • 2022 was an excellent reporting year with over 4,800 reports submitted.
  • A new cadre of 36 volunteers have been recruited.
  • A volunteer feedback exercise has been conducted and changes have been implemented.
  • Progress on Observatree Associates – see earlier.
  • 10 years of Observatree will occur soon, for a major publicity drive is planned.
  • TreeAlert: a new revised version was launched in March 2023; changes include greater use of photographs, inclusion of sentinel trees and reports of healthy trees, checked but found free of a specific pest or disease.

Research: Growing Connections Project (Samantha Green, Coventry University)

  • Driver is various policy targets to plant millions more trees.
  • Research project on community tree nurseries, including aspects such as biosecurity, record keeping and procurement.
  • Early findings indicate that buyers are supportive of the concept on community tree nurseries but unaware of them.
  • Important to learn from successes elsewhere in the World.

Phil Handley (Forest Research) added:

  • It is important to promote and support Community Tree Nurseries (CTNs).
  • The THCSN can help by provision of case studies, sharing key relevant information, interested people and organisations and by getting involved.
  • Charles Lane (Fera) suggested the Plant Healthy Assurance Scheme would be a useful source of information. 

28 July 2023

Dr David Slawson,

Coordinator THCSN

APPENDIX 1 Attendees

CarolynRiddellForest Research
Charles LaneFera
DavidSlawsonImperial College London/Observatree volunteer
EmmaMulcahyPlantNetwork
ErinRogerAtlas of Living Australia (CSIRO)
GinetteAlexanderYorkshire Arboretum
JakeMorrisDefra
JaneBarbrookAPHA
JaniceAnsineOpen University
KateLewthwaiteWoodland Trust
LucyCarson TaylorAPHA
LucyTurnerForest Research
MattElliottRBG Edinburgh
MercyMorrisPlantNetwork
PeterCrowObservatree, Forest Research
PhilHandleyForest Research
RebeccaGoslingObservatree, Woodland Trust
RichardMaxwellTremap
SamanthaGreenCoventry University
TomJenkinsForest Research Wales

Apologies

AlisonDykeStockholm Environment Institute, University of York
AndyGordonObservatree Volunteer
AndyMoffatAJ Moffat & Associates
DebbieHardingUKRI BBSRC
MattParrattObservatree, Forest Research
MichaelPocockCEH
SueMooreObservatree volunteer
Tools & Resources
In this section
Tools & Resources