40,000 more trees available for health check

Media release published 28 March 2018

Volunteers for the national, partner-led project known as Observatree can now access English Heritage sites, meaning that 380 new locations can be surveyed for signs of tree pests and diseases.

Observatree launched in 2013, with the aim of training volunteers to identify pests and diseases that threatened the UK’s trees and woods. So far, 235 volunteers have been trained, 3,000 surveys have been completed, and over 1,000 cases of a priority tree pest and disease having been reported.

Dr Kate Lewthwaite of the Woodland Trust said: “By gaining access to these sites, our Observatree volunteers can now assess the health of thousands more trees. This is incredibly important in understanding the spread of pests and diseases, and spotting new ones as they enter the country.”

Christopher Weddell, Senior Gardens Adviser, English Heritage added: “The Observatree programme is a valuable initiative and we are delighted for English Heritage sites to be included.  We care for very special gardens and landscapes, many of which have notable historic trees and the assistance of the Observatree volunteers in working with us to spot early warning signs of significant tree pests and diseases on or around our sites is very welcome.”

Nicola Spence, Defra’s Chief Plant Health Officer said: ‘’Citizen science projects like Observatree are playing a hugely valuable role in helping us build up our knowledge of our precious environment. Trees are threatened by disease and pests which is a growing concern for our wildlife, landscapes and economy. It’s fantastic that English Heritage is granting access to its sites to enable volunteers to gather more data to help us build up an even more accurate picture of the health of the nation’s trees.’’

Observatree is the collaboration led by Forest Research, supported by the Woodland Trust, Forestry Commission England, Defra, Fera Science Ltd, the Animal & Plant Health Agency, the National Trust, The Welsh Government and Forestry Commission Scotland. The project has funding of £231,000 per year, and additional support, from a wide range of conservation and government bodies.