Observatree toasts year of engaging "the knowledgeable public"

Volunteers trained through the Observatree tree health monitoring project have made more than 500 positive identifications of tree disease since the project launched a year ago.

Image: Observatree
Image: Observatree

Volunteers have also made more than 1,500 site visits. Currently 235 volunteers are on the project's books, trained by staff from the Forestry Commission, Forest Research, Fera Science, the government's Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) and the Woodland Trust.

One volunteer, Amanda Yorwerth, helped to identify only the second UK case of oriental chestnut gall wasp, in St Albans in July last year.

Observatree project manager Peter Crow said: "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."

Funded by the EU's Life+ programme, the collaborative project launched in the summer of 2015 and runs until 2018. It aims to support plant health scientists at Forest Research in identifying and mapping the distribution of certain tree pests and diseases.

Two distinct volunteer roles have been created. Tree health surveyors spot specific pests and diseases on common tree species, while 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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