‘Better biosecurity – it’s up to you!’, Katherine Deeks, Forestry Commission England Biosecurity Officer

We have a new member of staff here in the Forestry Commission England’s (FCE) tree health team. Becki Gawthorpe joined the team in late September as Biosecurity Officer for Arboriculture, having previously worked as an arboricultural consultant.  As Biosecurity Officer for Forestry, Becki and I will be working closely together to raise awareness of tree health and encourage the uptake of biosecure behaviours across our specific industries and amongst landowners and engaged public. 

Our colleague, Emily Fensom, provided a good overview of the type of work the FCE tree health team do back in July in light of Sweet chestnut blight.  Whilst we support the work of Tree Health Officers, as Biosecurity Officers our focus is centred on the communication and extension of the importance of tree health and biosecurity - in particular, working on and delivering the Keep it Clean biosecurity campaign.  

We work with a number of organisations to improve their biosecurity, as well as run workshops for organisations and colleges on tree pests and diseases and biosecurity, developing resources and tools such as those that can be found on the Keep it Clean webpages. One of these is the new tree health blog, ‘Out of the Woodwork’ which takes a closer look at the work of the tree health team and other Plant Health authorities. 

Trees provide many goods and services which we rely on, so it’s important that everyone plays their part in protecting the health of our trees.  Everyone can do this, whether a forester, an arborist, an Observatree volunteer or a woodland visitor.  The main way in which people can help protect our trees is to reduce the movement of potentially infected material from site to site, as pests and diseases can be found in soil, organic material (leaves, timber, woodchip and firewood) and water.  Just by simply cleaning boots, bikes, tools etc between sites we can reduce the risk of moving potentially infected material around with us and introducing it to new sites.

That’s what the Keep it Clean campaign aims to do - to get everyone to help keep our trees healthy by undertaking  every day, basic biosecurity actions so that infected material is not moved between sites.  Whilst pests and diseases can be spread via natural pathways such as wind, rain and animals, people have the ability to spread them much further and faster. 

Take a look at  some of our simple animations to see how easy it is to unintentionally spread pests and diseases, but also how easy it is to reduce the risk of doing so. 

If you’re interested in finding out more about what tree pests and diseases we have in the UK, and ones that are on our horizon, take a look at our pest and disease pages which have a wealth of information. 

And, as always, if you spot any suspicious ill health in trees report it to us via Tree Alert.

If everyone plays their part by undertaking basic biosecurity whilst working or visiting our woods and forests, we really can improve the future health of our trees.

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