Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Projects

Images of treesThe threat to our trees, woodlands and forests from a range of invasive pests and pathogens is now widely acknowledged.  Recent concern surrounding the likely long term consequences for biodiversity, landscapes and human wellbeing of the Chalara (ash dieback) fungal pathogen follows a series of other damaging tree disease outbreaks in this country.  Members of the Centre for Environmental Policy's Environmental Security and Governance Group are involved in a range of interdisciplinary research projects aimed at improving understanding of tree health and plant biosecurity issues and how best to prevent further pest and disease outbreaks in future.

More information about some of the current pest and disease threats facing our trees is available from the Forestry Commission website.

Our recent tree health and plant biosecurity research projects include:


UNPICK: Understanding public risk in relation to tree health

UNPICK is a three year research project designed to investigate how UK publics understand and perceive the growing threats to tree health from invasive pests and diseases. Outputs from the research will be used to improve the way government and stakeholders engage with publics about future risks to our trees, woodlands and forests.

Project partners: Forest Research, University of Bath

Tree health and plant biosecurity: mapping, analysis and improved understanding of stakeholders and the public to help protect tree health

This Defra-funded research project contributes to Government policy on tree health in England, Wales and Scotland by improving our understanding of the attitudes, motivation and behaviour of the stakeholders and publics involved in tree pest and disease outbreaks.

Project partners: Forest Research; the Food and Environment Research Agency; Cardiff University; University of the West of England (CCRI).

Analysis of the management of outbreaks of oak processionary moth in the UK

This Defra-funded project aims to retrospectively analyse the attempted eradication og the oak processionary moth Thaumetopoea processionea (OPM) outbreak in London, review experiences within other European countries and identify options for future management.

Project partners: Birkbeck College, University of London; Harper Adams University; Forest Research.

Pathways into policy for tree health

This project, funded under the Living With Environmental Change (LWEC) Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Initiative, aims to develop understanding of the biosecurity governance implications of different trajectories of tree pest introductions and spread through an international e-conference and workshop.

Project partners: Forest Research; the Food and Environment Research Agency; University of Exeter; USDA Forest Service; Charles Sturt University; the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute; Birkbeck College; University of the West of England (CCRI).

Memory and prediction in tree disease control

This interdisciplinary research project, funded under ESRC's Rural Economy and Land Use Programme (RELU), brought together biologists, economists, plant pathologists and policy specialists to investigate the threat from 'Sudden Oak Death' and other pathogens to trees and woodland in the UK.

Recent publications

Potter, C. & Urquhart, J. (2016) Tree disease and pest epidemics in the Anthropocene: A review of the drivers, impacts and policy responses in the UK, Forest Policy and Economics, article in press.

Maye, D., Dibden, J., Higgins, V.J.G. & Potter, C. (2012) Governing biosecurity in a neoliberal world: Comparative perspectives from Australia and the United Kingdom, Environment and Planning A, 44, 1, 150-168.

Potter C, Harwood T, Knight J, Tomlinson I. 2011. Learning from history, predicting the future: the UK Dutch elm disease outbreak in relation to contemporary tree disease threats. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B – Biological Sciences, 366, 1966-1974.

Harwood TD, Tomlinson I, Potter CA, Knight JD. 2011. Dutch elm disease revisited: past, present and future management in Great Britain, Plant Pathology, 60, 545-555.

Tomlinson I, Potter C. 2010. 'Too little, too late'? Science, policy and Dutch elm disease in the UK. Journal of Historical Geography, 36; 121-131.

Harwood TD, Xu X, Pautasso M, Jeger MJ, Shaw MW. 2009. Epidemiological risk assessment using linked network and grid based modelling: Phytophthora ramorum and Phytophthora kernoviae in the UK. Ecological Modelling, 220, 3353-3361.

Tomlinson, I, Harwood, T, Potter, C, Knight, J. 2009. Review of Joint Inter-Departmental Emergency Programme to contain and eradicate Phytophthora ramorum and P. kernoviae in Great Britain. 


Images courtesy of Forestry Commission