Sentinel trees track changes in health

Since May 2017, Observatree has encouraged volunteers to locate and monitor a network of local ‘sentinel trees’. The objective of this project is to study the same individual or group of trees over a period of time to look for any change related to priority pests and diseases that may affect them.

Frequently surveying the same individual trees on a regular basis will help to:

  • Record their general health
  • Identify any new pest and disease outbreaks affecting them
  • Monitor rates of any change in health

Reports from volunteers are submitted to Observatree, with a Tree Alert report raised where necessary.

Data collected are used by Forest Research and Tree Health Inspectors to help track the spread of pests and diseases across the country as well as spot any new outbreaks.

As of August 2018, Observatree has 290 sentinel trees being monitored. Oaks are the most popular sentinel species, followed by ash, birch and sweet chestnut. Over 80% of trees reported to date are considered to be ‘healthy’.

Observatree volunteer, Stephen Middleton, has been recording sentinel trees since the summer of 2017. Take a look at his series of photos (from a fixed viewpoint) of one of the sweet chestnut trees he is monitoring. This illustrates what the project is trying to achieve with some of the data captured.

But it’s not just our volunteers who can adopt a sentinel tree.  Why not find your own and keep a regular photo log? If anything worries you, check pest and disease signs and symptoms for that species of host tree using our free resources.