Promoting resilience of UK tree species to novel pests and pathogens: ecological and evolutionary solutions

Lead Research Organisation: Forest Research
Department Name: Centre for Ecosystems Soc and Biosecur

Abstract

It has been made clear by examples such as Ash Dieback, that our trees face a serious threat from new diseases and pests. As trees are everywhere and are well-loved parts of our landscape, an important part of our economy and an essential part of our biodiversity, their loss has serious consequences. However, dealing with each new threat as it comes along is difficult, expensive and potentially futile as threats can evolve so much faster than their tree hosts. Also, tree health is not just about a single pest or disease, but about growing trees in the right place, about keeping population sizes up, about ensuring seedlings get a chance to grow and about allowing forests to change as the environment changes. So, in order to find a sustainable long-term strategy for keeping our trees healthy, we need to consider the range of real and potential threats that trees face and try to deal with these together. At the same time, we need to ask what is possible for changing the way we grow trees: how do we use trees now, what do we want from our trees in the future, and how much change are we willing to accept? By finding a middle ground, that brings together the best biological knowledge with a clear understanding of the possible ways to adapt, we can give our trees the best possible chance of withstanding new threats.

The most important part of finding a way to do this is bringing together many different groups of people, and different types of knowledge. A lot is known about many of our trees already, but usually this knowledge comes from unlinked, independent studies and rarely do results from one study tell us something about another, even for the same tree species. Much better coordination is needed. To show how this can be done, we aim to use the example of Scots pine, an important native tree species.

For Scots pine, we know of several serious threats that are either here or are likely to reach the UK soon. The remaining native Scots pine forests are small and fragmented, but we know that they are adapted to their local environments: so pine trees from one part of the country grow differently than those from another. There are large plantations of Scots pine in many parts of the UK - there is ten times as much planted as remains in the native forests - and these are often at much higher densities than are found in nature, and often alongside plantations of pines from other parts of the world. There is also a strong cultural attachment to the species; in many places pinewoods are being replanted and it is often used as a garden or amenity tree.

Our project aims to measure how variable and adaptable are the threats to Scots pine, to test how much variation there is in the tree species in resistance to these threats, and to find ways to get people involved in making healthier pine forests. By doing this we also aim to show how the same thing can be done for any other tree species, and to put in place the tools for getting it done. We will focus on three important threats to Scots pine - Dothistroma needle blight, the pinetree Lappet moth and pine pitch canker. We will bring together a group of scientists - specialists in ecology, tree genetics, forest pathology, plant biochemistry, fungal ecology and evolution and social science - who will work together on the same, carefully chosen pine trees. This work will tell us how much the UK Scots pine population varies and how much it can change from generation to generation; how populations of the threats grow and change; and what can be done to make the pine forests we have more resilient. We will bring in lessons from crop agriculture, where similar problems have been faced for generations, and adapt these for trees and forests, that have much longer lifespans. Finally, by talking to people who work with and use trees, and the general public, we will find ways to use this information to make things change on the ground.

Technical Summary

The project will take advantage of existing experimental resources that the consortium has been building for the past few years. These include living experiments (a reciprocal transplant experiment on 3 contrasting sites including 21 native provenances; a glasshouse provenance-progeny trial; field provenance-progeny and provenance trials) and genetic and genomic resources (a large database of mutations across the Scots pine genome and capability for high-throughput genotyping; reference genome for Dothistroma; genetic markers for Dothistroma and pine tree Lappet moth). These existing resources will be made available to the project at no cost.

We will assess distribution and variation in the threat organisms using surveys and genotyping, and study pathogen evolution by characterising genetic changes in samples from different populations. We will assess variation in the host using population genomics (high-density genotyping of samples from multiple populations in trials) and quantitative genetics (analysis of variation in phenotypic traits and extended phenotype - resistance, phenology, morphology, needle chemistry, needle endophyte community). Data from the biological studies will be unified in a spatially-structured database and used, with data on distribution, density and regeneration rates to model the introduction and spread of threat organisms and their interaction with a variable pine population. The models will be used to test scenarios for management change that emerge from stakeholder interactions.

We will use workshops, semi-structured interviews and focus groups with stakeholders (identified through stakeholder analysis) to identify, test and refine options for building resilient pine populations. This will be a dynamic process, with ongoing interaction between natural and social scientists in the consortium, and with stakeholders. Finally, we will create a template for extending the analysis to other tree species.

Planned Impact

As described in full proposal document
 
Title Computer game 
Description Forest Research has fed in to the development of a computer game to illustrate principles of geneflow, disease spread and forest management. We have tested and commented on the prototype game 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2016 
Impact This output will be tested with children at the Edinburgh Science Festival in March 2016 to see if it inspires them to understand the complexities of modern forest management and the issues that it has to deal with. 
URL http://hyperluminalgames.com/
 
Title PROTREE project video 
Description A professional video of 6 minutes for a broad audience to highlight the impacts of invasive pests and diseases on native Scots pine but also the wider significance of resilience building in our forests (using genetic resources) 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2015 
Impact Greater understanding of tree health issues; promotion of the PROTREE project; ensuring that stakeholder views on tree health and the importance of resilience are heard in addition to science (thereby reaching a much wider practitioner audience). Can be found on the PROTREE website: https://wiki.ceh.ac.uk/display/THI/The+Project 
 
Description Perry, A., Cavers, S., Brown, A. V., Cottrell, J. E., Ennos, R. A. (2014) Heritable genetic variation in response to Dothistroma needle blight in native Scots pine. Poster: presented at the Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Initiative meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Perry, A., Cavers, S., Brown, A. V., Cottrell, J. E., Ennos, R. A. (2014) Heritable genetic variation in response to Dothistroma needle blight in native Scots pine. Poster: presented at the Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Initiative meeting
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description CALEDON computer game -developed in collaboration with CEH and RBGE as a publicly available educational tool for teaching schoolchildren the complexities of forest management 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact The CALEDON computer game has been developed to introduce schoolchildren to the complexities of forest management. It has been demonstrated at a number of events and has had positive reports from uptake in postgraduate teaching courses abroad.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Invited evening lecture delivered to the Botanical Society of Scotland on Scots pine. This talk included some of the work of PROTREE. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The Botanical Society of Scotland holds a series of invited lectures for its members. The audience consists of member of the society as well as interested public. The lecture was on Scots pine in general but also reported some of the findings of PROTREE.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Invited lecture on Scots pine to edinburgh University MSC students at the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh. The talk included some of the results from PROTREE. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact The Edinburgh University MSc students receive a few lectures as part of their course from applied researchers and one of this year's lecture included some of the PROTREE results.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description PROTREE stakeholder meeting at CEH 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This workshop tried to engage stakeholders in the work being done within PROTREE and its practical significance to policy makers and forest practitioners
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL https://wiki.ceh.ac.uk/display/THI/2015/06/01/First+Stakeholder+Workshop
 
Description Participation in metabarcoding meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Meeting to discuss methodology and data analysis for metabarcoding research in LWEC projects and other projects
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Patrick Sherwood, Edward Wilson, Roger Moore, Glenn Iason. Identifying resistance traits in Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) to the pine tree lappet moth (Dendrolimus pini). Oral presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Conference presentation. Future event
"Identifying resistance traits in Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) to the pine tree lappet moth (Dendrolimus pini)
IUFRO conference September 18-22 Freiburg, Germany
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Perry, A., Cavers, S., Brown, A. V., Cottrell, J. E., Ennos, R. A. (2014) Is there variation in resistance to Dothistroma needle blight in native Scottish Scots pine?. Talk: presented at the COST Action FP1102 DIAROD Plenary meeting  
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Perry, A., Cavers, S., Brown, A. V., Cottrell, J. E., Ennos, R. A. (2014) Is there variation in resistance to Dothistroma needle blight in native Scottish Scots pine?. Talk: presented at the COST Action FP1102 DIAROD Plenary meeting
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Perry, A., Cavers, S., Brown, A. V., Cottrell, J. E., Ennos, R. A. (2015) Can native Scots pine survive Dothistroma needle blight?. Talk: presented at the Genetics of Tree-Parasite Interactions conference, Orleans, France. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Perry, A., Cavers, S., Brown, A. V., Cottrell, J. E., Ennos, R. A. (2015) Can native Scots pine survive Dothistroma needle blight?. Talk: presented at the Genetics of Tree-Parasite Interactions conference, Orleans, France.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Perry, A., Cavers, S., Brown, A. V., Cottrell, J. E., Ennos, R. A. (2015) Variation in disease resistance in native Scots pine. Talk: presented at the Institute of Evolutionary Biology\'s annual student symposium 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Perry, A., Cavers, S., Brown, A. V., Cottrell, J. E., Ennos, R. A. (2015) Variation in disease resistance in native Scots pine. Talk: presented at the Institute of Evolutionary Biology\'s annual student symposium
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Public engagement on 21stMay 2016 at Big Nature Festival, Musselburgh near Edinburgh including demonstration of CALEDON computer game and material on recent forest tree pests and diseases 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact PROTREE had a stand at the Big Nature Festival in Musselburgh on 21-22nd May 2016 to engage with public and school children on the work of PROTREE. This included hands on experience of the CALEDON computer game and information on forest pests and diseases.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Second PROTREE Stakeholders workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The second PROTREE workshop aimed to update practitioners and ploicy makers on the work of the project and its practical implications
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL https://wiki.ceh.ac.uk/display/THI/2016/01/18/Second+Stakeholder+Workshop
 
Description Social research meetings 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A series of meetings with social researchers from different institutes to discuss our common research interest in resilience. The key outcome here was to facilitate collaboration and to avoid stakeholder fatigue by developing a coordiated approach. Discussions and networking is ongoing. Common questions and sets of stakeholders have been agreed.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description THAPBI grantholders meeting in York October 2015 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation made by Glenn Iason on progress in PROTREE project on Pine Tree Lappet Moth covering joint work with Forest Research and James Hutton Institute
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Talk to COST Action FP1102 DIAROD Plenary meeting - September 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Talk to COST Action FP1102 DIAROD Plenary meeting - September 2014
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description • Glenn Iason, Patrick Sherwood (JHI), Roger Moore, Ed Wilson (Forest Research) (2016). Genetic and environmental components of pine resistance to the pine-tree lappet moth. Oral presentation to PROTREE Annual Meeting, CEH, Bush Estate, Penicuik, 04 April 2016. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Talk given to update stakeholders and grantholders of progress on entomological element of Protree with particular emphasis on caterpillar growth and pine needle dietary composition.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016