August 2020

How can the general public assist in identifying tree ill-health?

The UK has experienced a series of outbreaks of invasive tree pests and diseases (P&Ds) in recent decades, perhaps the best known of which is Dutch Elm Disease which removed elm from almost all parts of the British Isles in the 1970s and 80s. More recently, a series of equally dangerous P&Ds have arrived, including a fungal pathogen that threatens ash trees across the country. Rapid identification of tree ill-health can help officials control and even eradicate these P&Ds but this requires a large resource of trained staff. To what extent can willing members of the general public, suitably trained, support official surveillance? A paper has just been published which describes a project to explore this in some detail. The study, conducted by university and government scientists, enlisted the help of people across the country who completed over 2800 surveys covering more than 4500 trees. Organised by OPAL (Open Air Laboratories), the study showed that suitably trained, there is a real level of enthusiasm to deliver information of importance to officials responsible for the country’s tree health. Andy Moffat was one of the two authors of the paper which describes the study. You can download a copy HERE.