Call for public to identify tree pests and diseases through OPAL survey

The Open Air Laboratories’ (OPAL) seventh nature survey, Tree Health, has opened.

OPAL researchers, together with experts from the Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera) and Forest Research, are asking the public to examine the trees in their local area for pests and diseases, particularly those affecting oak, ash and horse chestnut.

Survey activities include measuring trees' girth and height, examining the trunk, branches and leaves for signs of poor health and recording the presence of pests and diseases.

Dr Linda Davies, director of OPAL at Imperial College London said: "Tree Health is one of the most exciting and important surveys OPAL has developed so far. It is the seventh in our series of nature studies designed for people of all ages and abilities to start exploring and recording local nature.

"Whilst learning about local trees and gathering lots of interesting information, local people can also contribute their findings to a national research programme investigating the condition of the nation’s trees and the factors affecting them."

Particpants will contribute to the national research programme being carried out by Forest Research, the research agency of the Forestry Commission that is investigating the health of Britain’s trees and the spread of pests and diseases.

Joan Webber, principal pathologist at Forest Research, said: "Input from across Great Britain will help us to develop a comprehensive picture of tree health and contribute to the database of information that we are building."

The Tree Health survey also includes a guide to six of the most unwanted pests and diseases, including ash dieback and emerald ash borer.

David Slawson, chair of the OPAL Tree health Survey team, said: "People are passionate about trees. They genuinely want to help and the OPAL Tree Health survey will provide them with a great way to get involved. Their contribution could help us to spot any new threats that may have arrived in the country and give us the best chance of eradicating them before they spread."

Free survey packs, including tree identification guide, field notebook, field guide and Six Most Unwanted card have been made available at

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