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Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Initiative


What is the Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Initiative?

Trees make a huge impact on our rural and urban landscapes and contribute to a vital part of our heritage, rural economy and well-being. Preserving their health is especially important as the environment changes. In the last few years, several new pests and pathogens have emerged as significant risks to the UK’s woodlands, commercial forests and urban trees. Diseases such as acute oak decline and red pine needle blight have become established in the UK, and the outbreak of ash dieback at the end of 2012 illustrates how rapidly new diseases can take hold, and the scale of the threat they can pose to trees. 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. There is a range of  threats on the horizon. (See Briefing from the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology attached)

What does it aim to do?

  •   To generate natural and social scientific knowledge to inform the development of innovative ways of addressing current and emerging threats to trees and woodland ecosystems from pathogens and pests·
  • To support the future health and resilience of trees, woodlands and their associated ecosystems
  • To facilitate collaboration between specialists in tree or forest research, and leading-edge scientists from the wider natural, biological, social, economic or other relevant research communities
  • To encourage and make best use of interdisciplinary and systems approaches, and improve the impact and integration of social research and economics in this area

Who will use the outputs?

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. Outputs will also benefit, among others, land managers, foresters, conservation charities and community woodland advisers.


Start and End dates: March 2014 -

Funders: BBSRC, Defra, NERC, ESRC, Scottish Government, Forestry Commission.

A launch event is being held on March 25th 2014