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

Lead Research Organisation: NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology
Department Name: Biodiversity (Penicuik)

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

The project will focus on integrated, interdisciplinary studies involving a species that has clear economic, social and ecological importance in the UK. It will deliver general principles for the development of resilience that are applicable to populations of many other native tree species. In previous and ongoing projects, the research consortium assembled in this project has successfully engaged key stakeholders from the policy, industry, conservation and scientific communities both in their research and its practical implications (see below). This proposal emerged from a meeting held by this consortium in Edinburgh in March 2013, as part of Phase 1 of the Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Initiative. This was attended by 41 contributors from 24 influential UK organisations. Members of this stakeholder group have been, and will continue to be, involved in shaping the research. They will also help to develop, and participate in, the effective communication of its outcomes and recommendations to the wider stakeholder community, encouraging and facilitating the implementation of these recommendations by practitioners.

During this project we will solicit and integrate the views and expertise of the following key groups: 1. Policymakers: responsible for advice, guidance and regulation of public and private forest and tree management (e.g. Forestry Commission, DEFRA, Scottish Government, JNCC, Scottish Tree Health Advisory Group); 2. Industry: those involved in commercial sourcing, supply and growing of trees including domestic and international seed suppliers and nursery trade (e.g. Elite nurseries, Alba Trees, Scotia Seeds), commercial foresters (individuals, a wide range of private woodland and estate owners and managers and public - e.g. Forest Enterprise, Rothiemurcus / Glen Tanar Estates), others involved in tree planting (e.g. road builders, property developers, councils); 3. Conservation groups: local and nationwide groups with direct interests in tree planting and forest management, or who hold and manage significant areas of forested land (e.g. RSPB, Woodland Trust, Trees for Life, Caledonian Forest Partnership, SNH); 4. The public and other indirect interest groups. Each of these groups have a stake in the management of tree health either directly through their management of tree populations and associated control of pests and pathogens, or through the value that they attach to trees and forests.

Stakeholder participation will be facilitated through a range of activities (workshops, interviews, focus groups) that will form a core part of the project. These will include the development of a science-policy-practitioner interface (SPPI), analysis of values and understanding of key concepts motivating the management of tree health, and design and testing of science-based management options for promoting resilient forests and tree populations. Wider awareness of the key issues will be promoted through knowledge exchange activities, based on previous successful approaches (e.g. RBGE's 'Moving Forward from Ash Dieback'). The scientific community will form a significant part of the stakeholder network and will benefit from the published scientific outputs from the work.

We anticipate that stakeholders will benefit through involvement in the SPPI through knowledge sharing and greater understanding of the risks faced by the trees they manage, the role their trees play in the wider population of this species within the UK, and the options available to them to promote resilience and minimise the impact of pests and pathogens.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description A large amount of genetic variation in the susceptibility of native Scots pine trees to the pathogen Dothistroma septosporum has been found, meaning that forests are likely to be able to adapt and persist in the long term with the right kind of management.

The susceptibility of native Scots pine populations to the pathogen Dothistroma septosporum was found to be related to the suitability of the trees' environment to the pathogen. Trees from areas where high levels of infection would be expected had low susceptibility; this is probably because these trees have evolved to be more resistant, as a result of a long history of co-existence with the pathogen.
Exploitation Route The findings indicate the potential for breeding more resistant Scots pine in the future, and that there are grounds for optimism for the presistance of the native Caledonian pinewoods in the face of the Dothistroma pathogen.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment

URL http://www.protree.net
 
Description The finding of genetic variation for susceptibility to Dothistroma septosporum in Scots pine has been communicated to the Forestry Commission and to the wider community of stakeholders via dedicated workshops. Findings have been taken up by policymakers in development of a response to managing Dothistroma in UK forestry.
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink
Impact Types Economic,Policy & public services

 
Description BES Scottish Policy Group response to the Scottish Government's consultation on the Forestry Strategy 2019-2029
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
Impact Highlighted need for genetic diversity to secure resilient trees and forests.
URL https://www.britishecologicalsociety.org/policy/reports-publications/consultation-inquiry-responses/
 
Description Contribution to forest policy
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Citation in other policy documents
Impact Outputs from scientific publications contributed to shaping guidance on planting of trees in or near Caledonian pinewoods
URL http://scotland.forestry.gov.uk/images/corporate/pdf/planting-in-caledonian-pinewoods-reducing-dnb-r...
 
Description Inclusion of Forest Genetic Resources as key part of UK government's Tree Health Resilience Strategy (DEFRA, May 2018)
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Citation in other policy documents
Impact Research outputs on genetic diversity in trees and their value for the resilience of species underpinned the development of the UK FGR Strategy, which led to the recognition in national Tree Health Resilience policy that genetic diversity is essential to the long term sustainability of our trees and forests.
URL https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/7107...
 
Description (B4EST) - Adaptive BREEDING for productive, sustainable and resilient FORESTs under climate change
Amount € 6,478,663 (EUR)
Funding ID 773383 
Organisation European Commission 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 05/2018 
End 04/2022
 
Description (GenTree) - Optimising the management and sustainable use of forest genetic resources in Europe
Amount € 8,000,000 (EUR)
Funding ID 676876 
Organisation European Commission 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 03/2016 
End 02/2020
 
Description Forestry Research 
Organisation Forestry Commission
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We contribute studies of tree microbiomes on two project of the Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Initiative
Collaborator Contribution FR contributes to the project in areas of risk modelling and horizon scanning
Impact Pipits paper in Methods in Ecology & Evolution (see under publications)
Start Year 2015
 
Description Formation of the Steering Group for the UK's Forest Genetic Resources Strategy. 
Organisation Earth Trust
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Jontly with RBGE Kew, led the formation of the collaboration.
Collaborator Contribution The other partners participated actively in the formation and initiation of the collaboration and have committed to involvement in the future.
Impact Publication of the Strategy for the UK's Forest Genetic Resources
Start Year 2017
 
Description Formation of the Steering Group for the UK's Forest Genetic Resources Strategy. 
Organisation Forest Research
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Jontly with RBGE Kew, led the formation of the collaboration.
Collaborator Contribution The other partners participated actively in the formation and initiation of the collaboration and have committed to involvement in the future.
Impact Publication of the Strategy for the UK's Forest Genetic Resources
Start Year 2017
 
Description Formation of the Steering Group for the UK's Forest Genetic Resources Strategy. 
Organisation Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Jontly with RBGE Kew, led the formation of the collaboration.
Collaborator Contribution The other partners participated actively in the formation and initiation of the collaboration and have committed to involvement in the future.
Impact Publication of the Strategy for the UK's Forest Genetic Resources
Start Year 2017
 
Description Formation of the Steering Group for the UK's Forest Genetic Resources Strategy. 
Organisation Woodland Trust
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Jontly with RBGE Kew, led the formation of the collaboration.
Collaborator Contribution The other partners participated actively in the formation and initiation of the collaboration and have committed to involvement in the future.
Impact Publication of the Strategy for the UK's Forest Genetic Resources
Start Year 2017
 
Description James Hutton 
Organisation James Hutton Institute
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We collaborate in two projects under the Tree Health and Biosecurity Initiative. We contribute the study of tree microbiomes
Collaborator Contribution JH contributes studies on Lappettmoth in ProTree and the ecological role oak oaks in the ecosystems in PuRpOsE
Impact None yet
Start Year 2014
 
Description Are our native Scots pine forests at risk of Dothistroma needle blight epidemics? Article in Botanical Society of Scotland Newsletter - September 2013 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact not evaluated
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Attendance & presentation at 'Gamification for Tree and Plant Health' workshop, 18/19 August 2016, Stirling University 
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 Attendance and presentation (PROTREE project) at workshop. 20-30 attendees discussed methods and potential for introducing gamilifation to plant health research and implementation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Big Nature Festival, Musselburgh Links, East Lothian, 21-22nd May 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact PROTREE project stall in tent at RSPB's Big Nature Festival. Audience was engaged by chance to play computer game, observe and handle insects, and talk to project staff about research. Stall was manned over two full days, with lots of interest.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://bignaturefestival.org.uk/
 
Description Development of a Strategy for the UK's Forest Genetic Resources 
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 50 delegates attended a workshop or submitted contributions towards development of a national strategy for Forest Genetic Resources.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.ceh.ac.uk/our-science/projects/uk-forest-genetic-resources-strategy
 
Description Engaging visitors in Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh regarding values relating to tree health 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Discussion with 150 visitors to Botanic Gardens about PROTREE. Included discussions on values around different tree species, especially Scots pine. Also discussed awareness of tree pests and diseases and actions that can be taken to mitigate introduction and spread.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Field trip & visit, SRUC MSc students in Plant Health 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Visit of students and lecturer from SRUC new MSc course in Plant Health: hosted by S Cavers, students visted CEH site, heard about research activities and visited experimental field site where genetic variation in Scots pine is being investigated.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Film promoting PROTREE aims and objectives 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Film intended to promote PROTREE created and posted on PROTREE website. Film has been widely viewed and many positive comments received including from overseas.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.protree.net
 
Description Membership of the Scientific Advisory and Response Team (SART) of Scotland's Plant Health Centre 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The Plant Health Centre is a virtual centre of expertise funded by Scottish Government through RESAS (Rural and Environment Science and Analytical Services Division) to help tackle plant health challenges for Scotland.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.planthealthcentre.scot/about-us
 
Description Midlothian Science Festival - "Trees Under Attack - the science of keeping trees healthy", S Cavers 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Science walk around gardens of Vogrie House, Midlothian: structured talk & walk with members of the public. 5-10 people attended and listened, asked questions and talked during the course of a 1 hour walk.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://midlothiansciencefestival.com/
 
Description PROTREE website 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Website cteated for general introduction and dissemination of PROTREE activities: general audience
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.protree.net
 
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 Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Communicated primary research findings
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
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 Communication with research community
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
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 British Ecological Society's annual meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Communication with research community
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.britishecologicalsociety.org/events/current_future_meetings/past-bes-annual-meetings/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 British Ecological Society\'s annual 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. (2015) Can native Scots pine survive Dothistroma needle blight?. Talk: presented at the British Ecological Society\'s annual 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 Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Communication with research community
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL https://colloque.inra.fr/tree-parasite-interactions2015
 
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 Edinburgh Ecological Network's annual meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Communication with research community
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 Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Communication with research community
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Popular press release in several local and national newpapers about the findings of our study which was additionally published in a scientific journal 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact We had our communication department write a popular press release that was picked up by several national and local newspapers such as the Scotsman. The article was an overview of our earlier publication in a scientific journal describing the risk of planting high density non native trees on disease outbreak in native natural stands.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.scotsman.com/news/environment/call-to-fell-alien-trees-to-protect-native-scots-pine-1-46...
 
Description Poster presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Poster presentation at "Innovations in Plant Biosecurity 2017 conference. March 15-16 2017. York
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Scottish LEarning Festival, Glasgow, 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 Stand was run at event aimed at secondary school teachers, local government and personnel in charge of school resource budgets. A wide range of visitors expressed interest in use of the game, CALEDON, as a teaching aid in secondary classrooms.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016
URL http://www.slfexhibition.com/
 
Description Stakeholder Workshop, December 2015 
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 Stakeholder workshop for presentations of project results, and interactive discussions on key topics. Good level of interest from stakeholder community on primary research findings and lots of engagement in interactive sessions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.protree.net
 
Description Stakeholder focus groups on resilience 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact PROTREE annual stakeholder meeting in April 2016. Mariella Marzano (FR) and Juliette Young (CEH) ran focus group discussions on meanings around resilience and practical experiences
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Talk at Ancient Tree Forum annual meeting (Aviemore) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Talk and discussion

Strong discussion about right and wrong ways to deal with tree pests / pathogens.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.ancient-tree-forum.org.uk/ancient-tree-forum/atfevents/archive/archive.htm
 
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 Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Discussion on progress of work, valuable suggestions for improvement of future work, collaborative paper writing planned

Integration of UK research with parallel European initiatives
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.forestry.gov.uk/fr/diarod
 
Description Techfest, Aberdeen: public engagement with science event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Stand at Techfest event featured opportunities to play the computer game CALEDON, handle live insects and view information about the PROTREE project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.techfestsetpoint.org.uk/tis/