A project to to develop a UK integrated Tree Health Early Warning System has been awarded just under £1 million by the LIFE, the EU’s financial instrument that supports environmental policy and nature conservation projects.

The ObservaTree partnership (Forest Research, Forestry Commission, Fera, the Woodland Trust and the National Trust) aims to identify tree health problems earlier and to harmonise knowledge and communications within a single system and has received strong support from the government Tree Health and Biosecurity Action Plan and funding from Defra.

The intention is to enable the public and voluntary bodies to report incidents and help identify tree health problems earlier. A trained body of volunteer Tree Health Champions will be recruited from a wide spectrum of backgrounds – from ordinary citizens to those already working in forestry, horticulture and arboriculture. These will support Forest Research scientists by acting as a first line of response, filtering and checking reports of tree pests and diseases sent in by the public from their localities.

Forestry Commission plant health service head Dr John Morgan said: “… bringing together all the main actors in one project will help policy teams and practitioners to collaborate on tree health matters across the borders of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It will also enable them to link up with other EU states and organisations who can share valuable knowledge about tree health threats with the UK.”

The project will build a library to share information on the greatest pest and disease risks that could feed into the risk register recommended in the Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Taskforce Report.

The project is expected to get underway early in 2014 with preparatory and engagement work undertaken over the next few months.

For more information and contacts go to www.forestry.gov.uk/fr/observatree.

 

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