Two new projects have received a share of £2M for research to help combat threats to trees and plants as part of the Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Initiative (THAPBI). This multi-disciplinary initiative brings together biological, environmental, and social scientists to support the future health and resilience of the UK’s forests and woodland in the face of increasing pressures.
Several new tree pests and pathogens have emerged to threaten UK trees in recent years, with plant imports and climate change often implicated in their spread.
Research that will conserve trees, woodlands and forests has the potential to be greatly beneficial to both society and the economy, as the social value of UK trees has been estimated at around £1.8Bn per year.
Of the two projects funded under phase three of THAPBI, one focuses on forecasting pests and pathogens that affect oak trees, the other on minimising the threat from destructive Phytophthora pathogens and their spread in trade. Across all phases, the projects funded will increase our knowledge and understanding of pests, pathogens and trees in the hope of developing best practice guidelines for commercial and environmental sectors.
Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson said: “This £2M investment in Britain’s pioneering plant science will enable scientists to find new ways to tackle pests and diseases that are a real threat to our environment and global food security. By protecting the science budget in real terms we can continue to invest in world-class science that delivers environmental benefits worldwide while ensuring everyone can continue to enjoy Britain’s beautiful woodlands and forests.”
Professor Melanie Welham, BBSRC chief executive, said: “Understanding threats to trees and habitats could make a huge difference to the UK&srquo;s social and economic landscape in the face of emerging risks from pests and pathogens. Research funded under this initiative has the potential to be transferred to other tree pests or diseases, to help keep our forests and crops safe.”
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 and skills for dealing with plant health, and pests and pathogens.
THAPBI is funded under the auspices of the Living With Environmental Change Partnership with support from 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 two projects funded under phase three of the initiative are:
- Global threats from Phytophthora spp,: understanding drivers of emergence and opportunities for mitigation through nursery best practice – Led by Dr Sarah Green, Forest Research
- PuRpOsE: Protect Oak Ecosystems: understanding and forecasting causes and consequences, management for future climates -Led by Dr Rob Jackson, University of Reading
Image credit: BBSRC