Blog

2016 training up-skills Observatree volunteers, Suzy Sancisi-Frey, Forest Research

Firstly I would like to thank all volunteers and trainers who attended the training days and helped make them successful and enjoyable for everyone present.  We held 12 training events, with venues in all volunteer regions in the UK including Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Approximately 150 volunteers attended these events and, according to preliminary feedback, the majority were satisfied or very satisfied with their training experience. Four heads are better than one There were at least four Observtree trainers present at each training event from organisations such as: Forest Research (FR) Forestry Commission England (FCE) and Scotland (FCS) Natural Resources Wales (NRW) The Woodland Trust (WT) The National Trust (NT) The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) FERA Science The Dept. of Agriculture and Rural Development in Northern Ireland (DARD) This cross organisation working has been very positive as volunteers have benefitted from the range of different experiences and […]

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‘Reflections on a February tree health conference’, Kate Lewthwaite, Woodland Trust

Kate Lewthwaite

On two sunny spring days at Kew Gardens a conference with a rather sober topic took place: tree health early warning systems. In other words, how can we as a global community spot foreign tree pests and diseases of concern before they take hold in our respective countries? The conference was hosted by Observatree and the International Plant Sentinel Network, which monitors trees and plants around the world for their response to pests and diseases. It attracted some key professionals in tree health from the UK and across the world – 150 delegates in total from 20 countries including the USA, Russia and New Zealand. Threats There is a risk from a steady stream of accidental introductions of new pests and diseases, especially via imports of mature trees and shrubs from Asian trade routes. Many of the organisms of concern to us live in harmony with their host plants or […]

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‘British cedars under attack?’ Dr Ana Perez-Sierra, Forest Research

Cedars are non-native evergreen conifers that historically have been used as ornamentals in gardens and estates in Britain. More recently, cedars have been considered as an alternative forestry species particularly on drier sites in southern and eastern Britain. The main three species grown in Britain are: Lebanon cedar (from the mountains of Lebanon, south central Turkey and western Syria) Deodar cedar (from the Himalayas) Atlas cedar (from the Atlas Mountains of North Africa, in northern Morocco and northern Algeria) Cedars are generally pest and disease-free. However in the last two years Atlas cedars have been affected by severe shoot blight and defoliation. At the Tree Health Diagnostic & Advisory Service (THDAS) we identified the causal agent as the fungus Sirococcus tsugae. This was the first record of the fungus in Britain as it was previously only recorded in North America on hemlocks and Atlas and Deodar cedars. Almost at the […]

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‘New Year, new leadership’, Peter Crow, new Observatree Project Manager

Since approached to take on the role of Observatree Project Manager, I have inevitably been on a steep learning curve to understand the past, present and future direction of the project. Observatree has benefited from the previous lead of Kate Hutchinson (Forest Research). As Kate leaves for pastures new, her on-going dedication and professional approach ensures that I am left with a comprehensive ‘to do’ list. I don’t think I’ll get bored! On behalf of everyone involved with Observatree, I would like to thank Kate for her hard work and support in getting the project to where it is. As I learn more about Observatree, I am very impressed with the success of the project to date. It is clear that there is a lot of hard work being put into it, both by members of the project team and volunteers. The updated website is packed with useful information and […]

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Goodbye 2015, hello 2016! Kate Hutchinson, Observatree Project Manager

Having recently completed our second year of LIFE+ funded activity, it seems like a great time to look back at what Observatree has achieved so far together with a taster of what’s in store for 2016. Tree Health Citizen Science in action Observatree volunteers have been doing a superb job out and about across the UK undertaking tree health surveys. They recorded 4770 hours of survey activity during 2015 and a whopping 95% of them have stayed with the project. These figures illustrate their commitment to tree health. In 2015 they found a number of our priority pests and diseases, demonstrating the concept of tree health citizen science works. The most exciting finding was, of course, the second known outbreak of Oriental Chestnut Gall Wasp in the UK. Amanda, her daughter (who helped spot the disease) and the project received praise from senior levels of Defra and the Forestry Commission. […]

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‘Observatree in Northern Ireland’, Helen Jones, Observatree Engagement Officer

“Think on many a glorious scene, which graced thy hills and valleys green.” For me, William Drennan’s words from his epic poem “the Emerald Isle” evoke a vision of a beautiful, untouched landscape. Having travelled to Northern Ireland a number of times, I am still struck by the vivid colours and diverse habitats of the rugged countryside that surrounds you. I find it surprising, therefore, that Northern Ireland has the least woodland cover of all the countries within the UK, only about 6.5%. As the Engagement Officer for the Observatree project, I have started to look at woods and trees in a completely different way, scanning them for signs and symptoms of ill health. The project has also taught me to appreciate our native woodlands much more so it is worrying to think that pests and diseases could have an even greater impact on the landscape in Northern Ireland where […]

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‘Mine’s an austrocedri please!’ Joan Webber, Principal Pathologist, Forest Research

Juniper is one of our three native conifers and Scotland is the UK’s stronghold for this sometimes overlooked tree. We know that juniper has been in decline for many years with heavy animal browsing and habitat loss blamed for decreasing numbers. However, Forest Research scientists have found that a Phytophthora first discovered in Argentina in 2007, Phytophthora austrocedri, may also be contributing to the loss of our junipers. This species of Phytophthora was found in Great Britain in 2011 for the first time and appears to like cool temperatures and thrive in boggy, poorly drained soils.

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‘Dynamics of the Horse Chestnut Leaf Miner’, Phil Scott, Forestry Adviser, National Trust

Have you noticed that, by mid-summer, the leaves of the Horse Chestnut often have brown splotchy marks making the tree look like it’s in autumn colours already? Let’s start at the beginning The Horse Chestnut Leaf Miner is totally defined by its English name: It lives on Horse Chestnut trees – mainly the widely planted, white flowering variety and only rarely the red flowering variety It eats the inside layer between the two outer sides of a leaf and so ‘mines’ the leaf We’re not sure where the Horse Chestnut Leaf Miner (Cameraria ohridella) originally came from but it was first found in Macedonia in 1985. It arrived in the UK in 2002 and has rapidly spread throughout most of southern and central UK. It continues expanding northwards and westwards each year. Circle of life A five millimetre long female moth typically lays 20 to 40 single eggs along the […]

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‘No sting in this tale’, Amanda Yorwerth, Observatree volunteer

Amanda and Hannah

Time to act It was quite exciting to get my first proper call to action when it was reported that Oriental Chestnut Gall Wasps (OCGW) had been found in Kent. Obviously it wasn’t good that another tree pest had arrived in the UK, but I set out looking at trees with renewed purpose. There aren’t many sweet chestnut trees around St Albans but people know where they are as they are one of the only wild trees around providing a free harvest. What you see everyday I immediately thought of a short row of sweet chestnut trees on a main road I often cycle past. You know what it’s like, time is always short, so on the way back from a swim I persuaded my daughter, Hannah, to stop off with me for a moment to inspect the trees. She stood there whilst I started at one end of the […]

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‘Chalara Dieback of Ash on my doorstep’, Charles Lane, Plant Pathologist, Fera

Living in rural North Yorkshire, on the border with the East Riding, provides easy access to beautiful areas of the Wolds, Howardian Hills, Moors and coastal regions for country walks. As a Plant Pathologist, it’s a fascinating place to live – being in the front line of the spread of Chalara Dieback of Ash. When going out for regular walks, I now find journey times much slower as I stop to survey for Chalara. Tell tale signs Now is an excellent time to look for symptoms. Without significant undergrowth getting close to young ash, regeneration growth and characteristic stem lesions are easier to spot without too many leaves. From my experience, the most reliable and consistent symptom is the slightly sunken, foxy red-brown lesion centred on a side branch. This frequently causes the death of the leader, resulting in a flush of side shoots at the base as the tenacious […]

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