Volunteers identify more than 500 cases of tree disease in one year

Media release published 18 August 2016

More than 500 positive identifications of tree disease have been made by volunteers trained through the Observatree tree health monitoring project since it launched one year ago. More than 1,500 site visits have also been made by the volunteers so far across the UK.

Thanks to funding from EU’s Life+ programme, the collaboration between Forest Research, the Forestry Commission, Defra, Natural Resources Wales, Fera Science Ltd, Animal & Plant Health Agency (APHA), the National Trust and the Woodland Trust launched in the summer of 2015 and runs until 2018. It aims to support plant health scientists at Forest Research with identifying and mapping the distribution of certain tree pests and diseases.

Currently 235 volunteers are on the project’s books, trained by staff from the Forestry Commission, Forest Research, Fera Science, APHA and the Woodland Trust.

One significant moment was the positive identification in St Albans of only the second case of oriental chestnut gall wasp, by volunteer Amanda Yorwerth in July last year.

Peter Crow, Observatree Project Manager, said: “The purpose of the volunteer network is to provide support for our plant health scientists as the number of pests and diseases affecting our native trees increases.

“What is heartening is the level of interest from the knowledgeable public who have volunteered for the project, the large numbers of surveys undertaken by them, and their success in identifying many of our priority pests and diseases. We hope to build on this hard work and success over the remainder of the project.”

Two volunteer roles have been created for the duration of the project: tree health surveyors spot specific pests and diseases on common tree species; and tree health triage verifiers work with scientists to collect any necessary additional information for tree disease records submitted by the public through Tree Alert, the Forestry Commission’s on-line pest and disease reporting tool.

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Notes to editors:

For further information contact the Woodland Trust press office on 01476 581121 or email chrishickman@woodlandtrust.org.uk

The LIFE programme is the EU’s funding instrument for the environment. The general objective of LIFE is to contribute to the implementation, updating and development of EU environmental policy and legislation by co-financing pilot or demonstration projects with European added value.