The Forestry Commission have announced that seven new research projects have received a share of £7M to help address threats to UK forests, woods and trees. The multi-disciplinary Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Initiative (THAPBI) will generate knowledge to tackle pests and diseases and to support the future health of the UK’s woodlands, commercial forests and urban trees. The societal benefits of the UK’s trees are estimated at around £1.8 billion per year.
Forest Research (FR) scientists are involved in all of these projects, sharing their expertise with colleagues from universities and research institutes across the country.
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 funded as part of this initiative are:
- Population structure and natural selection in the Chalara ash dieback fungus, Hymenoscyphus pseudoalbidus – approx. £635K.
Led by Professor James Brown, the John Innes Centre with FR partners Professor Clive Brasier and Dr Joan Webber
- Identifying genomic resources against pests and pathogens in tree genera: a case study in Fraxinus – approx. £760K
Led by Dr Richard Buggs, Queen Mary, University of London with FR partners Dr Steve Lee and Dr Helen McKay
- Biological pest control of insect pests that threaten tree health – approx. £900K
Led by Professor Tariq Butt, Swansea University with FR partner Dr Roger Moore
- Promoting resilience of UK tree species to novel pests and pathogens: ecological and evolutionary solutions – approx. £1.4M
Led by Dr Stephen Cavers, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology with FR partners Dr Joan Cottrell, Dr Anna Brown, Dr Roger Moore and Dr Mariella Marzano
- Modelling economic impact and strategies to increase resilience against tree disease outbreaks – approx. £900K
Led by Dr Adam Kleczkowski, University of Stirling with FR partners Dr Steven Hendry, Dr Joan Webber and Dr Anna Brown
- New approaches for the early detection of tree health pests and pathogens – approx. £1.9M
Led by Dr Rick Mumford, Food & Environment Research Agency (Fera) with FR partners Dr Mariella Marzano and Dr Anna Brown
- Understanding public risk concerns: an investigation into the social perception, interpretation and communication of tree health risks – approx. £615K Led by Dr Clive Potter, Imperial College London with FR partner Dr Chris Quine
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 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 areas.