Blog

Summary of the 2019 training days

The Observatree volunteer training roadshow went ahead as usual this year with eleven training events in total in England, Scotland and Wales. Our volunteers came from far and wide to attend them, with one individual even flying in from Northern Ireland to join us! We had a great turn-out this year with a combination of new and existing volunteers, so a big ‘thank you’ to all of you who were able to attend.

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Observatree Summer Round Up

A busy summer of Observatree activity has seen us out and about up and down the country from shows and events to pest and disease surveys we have certainly had our hands full. Here is just a brief summary of what we have been up to and some of the highlights from the last few months.

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Observatree show on the road! – Peter Crow

Two weeks, two events, two firsts and one joined-up message Peter Crow reviews two shows where Observatree was working with others to help promote the importance of tree health During two weeks in May, I represented Observatree at two shows and at each event there was a first for the project. The first event, was the Arboricultural Association (Arb) Show, held at Westonbirt. This is not a new event for Observatree and we have attended this on several occasions because it provides an excellent opportunity for us to speak to arboriculturalists and foresters. Once again, we teamed up with the Forestry Commission’s Biosecurity team (who were promoting their ‘Keep it clean’ campaign) to provide a one-stop-shop for all things related to tree health. Whilst we spoke to some visitors who were unaware of Observatree, increasingly I heard comments such as ‘oh yes. We know all about Observatree. We use the […]

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Citizen science and tree health in the UK – Andy Gordon

Citizen science and tree health in the UK, Andy Gordon, Observatree Volunteer The first use of volunteers for monitoring tree health in the UK occurred in 1993, when a project was established to track the condition of amenity trees at several sites across five regions in England alone. Before that time no formal monitoring of the health of amenity trees took place in the UK. The project, which was funded by various government departments, was seen as an extremely valuable means of collecting information on the condition of as many tree species as possible. It became more focussed over the years, and the last phase, initiated in 1999, involved the collection of more quantitative data, concentrating purely on 16 of the most common tree species in amenity plantings within England. In total, 106 different survey sites were chosen. Plots of up to 100 young and mature trees in 12 different […]

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An update on pests and diseases and our plans for 2019, Peter Crow

An update on pests and diseases and our plans for 2019 During 2018, Observatree added the elm zigzag sawfly to the list of priority pests and diseases, and hosted a webinar on Xylella fastidiosa to help raise awareness of this bacterium and the potential damage it can cause. We also included Xylella on our new watch list of additional pests and diseases of concern, although it is not one of our current priorities.  Towards the end of the year, Forestry Commission inspectors identified a breeding population of the eight-toothed spruce bark beetle (Ips typographus) in Kent. This pest is of significant concern to the forest industry and so over the coming months Observatree will be working closely with those investigating the findings to ascertain how or when we may be able to provide appropriate support.  All of the pests and diseases mentioned above emphasise the additional threats to our trees, […]

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The story so far: the difference we’ve made in five years

The story so far: the difference we’ve made in five years It seems like yesterday I attended the first Observatree meeting in London and here we are, five years later. Working with Observatree volunteers has been a crucial part of our work at the Tree Health Diagnostic and Advisory Service (THDAS) at Forest Research (FR). We have delivered training and webinars, provided materials for the resources and we are a point of contact to answer the volunteers’ questions. Our main objective, together with all the partners involved in the project, is to build a network of volunteers that will act as a tree health early warning system. So, here we are; five years on. Which priority pests and diseases (P&D) did Observatree volunteers find during this time? What have we done with their data and how have they contributed to our understanding of P&Ds in the UK? I’m going to […]

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Observatree II: Thoughts from Nicola Spence, Chief Plant Health Officer, Defra

It’s now almost exactly a year since Phase 1 of Observatree under EU LIFE+ funding came to an end and the project transitioned to Observatree II. A great deal has happened over the past 12 months, both within the project and in the wider world of tree health, and I wanted to take this opportunity, as Defra’s Chief Plant Health Officer, to reach out to the Observatree ‘family’ and share some of my thoughts as the project moves forward. Over the summer we published the Tree Health Resilience Strategy – the first output from the Government’s 25 year Environment Plan. The Strategy announces some important initiatives that will help to protect our trees, including: raising public awareness of importance of plant biosecurity continuing our work to assess risk from pests and diseases (P&Ds) – there are now over 1000 P&Ds on the UK Risk Register, approximately 30% of which are […]

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Introducing Dr Mary Barkham: Observatree volunteer and new Chair of the project Board

I was delighted to go to an Observatree training event at Llandeilo on 8 June 2018. This was the third training event that I have attended and, as well as an update on some priority pests and diseases, there was a very useful identification workshop on broadleaved trees. Some were more challenging than others, including some species that I was less familiar with like Wych Elm. I’ve now seen several of these where I live in South Wales. It just shows how much more observant you can become when you know what you are looking for. And I now know where to look for any Elm zigzag sawflies! Training events are always a good opportunity to learn from other volunteers too. I’m always impressed by the knowledge and experience of participants and it’s really useful to know who is surveying where in your region. It was also nice for new […]

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‘On the trail of Sirococcus tsugae’, Andy Gordon, Observatree volunteer

In July 2015, at an Observatree training session held at Keele University, Barnaby Wylder (Forestry Commission) showed volunteers a 10-15 year old  Cedrus atlantica glauca quite heavily infected with Sirococcus tsugae. The disease has been endemic in North America on Hemlock (Tsuga spp.) for many years but has only been observed in Europe, initially in Germany, in recent years. The day after Barnaby’s talk I visited Attingham Park, very close to my home, and found tip die-back symptoms on 15-30 year old trees of Cedrus libani.  Samples sent to Forest Research proved negative but within a month samples from three different Cedrus atlantica glauca at the National Sports Centre, Lillieshall Hall, all proved positive. Further samples collected from Shropshire and Mid Wales over the next two years also proved positive. This made me confident that I was able to detect the disease and no longer sent samples to Forest Research […]

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‘2018 volunteer training days – a summary’, Charlotte Armitage, Woodland Trust

I would like to say a huge thank you to all volunteers and trainers who attended the training days and helped make them successful and enjoyable for everyone present. We held 11 events across England, Wales, and Scotland from the end of May to the beginning of July. Approximately 75 volunteers attended and it was good to see a mix of existing and new volunteers. According to preliminary feedback, the majority were satisfied or very satisfied with their training experience. Trainers came to support from across the partnership: 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 This cross organisation working has been very positive as volunteers have benefitted from the range of different experiences and expertise that trainers were able to provide on training days. We covered a […]

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