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New research to help save UK forests, woods and trees


Seven new research projects to address threats to UK forests, woods and trees will be announced today as part of an LWEC brokered initiative. The multi-disciplinary Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Initiative will generate knowledge to tackle pests and diseases and to support the future health of the UK's woodlands, commercial forests and urban trees.

In the last few years, several new pests and diseases have emerged as significant risks to tree health and plant biosecurity. An increase in trade in plants and plant products has contributed to new pests and diseases entering the UK that are capable of causing serious damage. Climate change may also be increasing the risk of these pests and diseases establishing and spreading.

The new research projects will help to counter these threats by informing and evaluating potential control, mitigation or adaptation strategies. The projects will also generate natural and social scientific knowledge to improve understanding of the environmental, economic and social impacts of changes in tree health.The projects focus on: new approaches for the early detection of problems; understanding public concerns; increasing resilience against tree disease outbreaks; finding genetic clues to better tree health; biological control of insect pests; and understanding ash dieback.

The initiative is funded by Living With Environmental Change Partners: the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Economic and Social Research Council, Forestry Commission, Natural Environment Research Council and the Scottish Government.

The research will address knowledge gaps identified by Defra’s Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Expert Task Force and the objectives of the joint Defra/Forestry Commission ‘Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Action Plan’. The projects will also ensure that the UK has increased research capacity in these area.

Projects funded under the initiative:

·         Population structure and natural selection in the Chalara ash dieback fungus, Hymenoscyphus pseudoalbidus led by Professor James Brown, the John Innes Centre

·         Identifying genomic resources against pests and pathogens in tree genera: a case study in Fraxinus led by Dr Richard Buggs, Queen Mary, University of London

·         Biological pest control of insect pests that threaten tree health led by Professor Tariq Butt, Swansea University

·         Promoting resilience of UK tree species to novel pests and pathogens: ecological and evolutionary solutions led by Dr Stephen Cavers, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology

·         Modelling economic impact and strategies to increase resilience against tree disease outbreaks led by Dr Adam Kleczkowski, University of Stirling

·         New approaches for the early detection of tree health pests and pathogens led by Dr Rick Mumford, Food & Environment Research Agency (Fera)

·         Understanding public risk concerns: an investigation into the social perception, interpretation and communication of tree health risks led by Dr Clive Potter, Imperial College London