Mariella Marzano

Image of Mariella Marzano
Social and Economic Research Scientist
Forest Research

Mariella is a social anthropologist and senior social researcher at Forest Research with over 15 years of experience in agriculture, fisheries and forestry sectors in the UK and internationally. Mariella currently leads a number of interdisciplinary research projects and/or work packages related to the human dimensions of species management, tree and plant biosecurity, stakeholder engagement and risk management and communication. Recent projects have covered species such as Dothistroma needle blight, Asian longhorn beetle, Oak processionary moth, Emerald ash borer, Phytophthora sp., grey squirrels and rhododendron ponticum.  Mariella also established and chairs the IUFRO Working Party on the “Social Dimensions of Forest Health” and is an Honorary Fellow at the University of St Andrews.    

Projects

Project Lead: Mariella Marzano
Three projects (PHC2019/04/05/06) were conducted in 2020/21 that investigated large-scale biosecurity risks to Scotland from several supply-chains and planting approaches. This project was commissioned, within the original scope of the aforementioned projects, to conduct further research with a strong likelihood of strengthening and expanding their findings. This project seeks to engage with hard-to-reach actors and the wider sector through their membership organisations.

PHC2021/02 will implement an Action Research approach, delivered through workshops co-designed with network organisations, to better understand current plant biosecurity risks in several sectors, to identify their plant health knowledge needs, and to begin to embed biosecurity training within existing organisations, programmes and processes.

The outcomes of the project will be:
• An enhanced understanding of the knowledge and training needs of different sectors and the identification of biosecurity actions that will fill some of the gaps identified by PHC2019/04/05/06
• The identification of further training needs and potential approaches to address the problems identified
• A legacy of close working relationships between the PHC and several network organisations, key to future plant biosecurity research or training delivery activities
Project Lead: Chris Pollard
Whilst it is generally agreed that ‘prevention is better than cure’ in plant health, translating such logic into precautionary actions does not always happen. Precautions can be encouraged in a variety of ways – through development of implementable actions, risk assessments, encouragement of best practice, and general appeals to adopt approaches which prevent future losses. However, this does not adequately address risky behaviour. Whilst better information may not be sufficient to change practices, there is a weakness in our ability to justify precaution. This project seeks to address this gap by considering whether there are different approaches, or additional information which might be considered.

Drawing upon and summarise existing literature, in addition to engagement with experts and practitioners with knowledge of existing sectoral practices in Scotland, UK and internationally, as well as gap analysis, the project will generate a better understanding of the rationale for taking precautions and an improved evidence base with which to justify taking action, answering four main questions:
• What are the current barriers to adopting precautionary measures?
• How can barriers be reduced?
• What are the limitations of the current risk assessment process?, and
• What are the priority areas for action and further research?
Project Lead: Katrina Dainton
Birch is an important component of Scotland’s broadleaved woodlands and as individual trees in Scottish landscapes – with high aesthetic and biodiversity associated values as well as a range of uses for the wood. Birch, because of pioneering qualities and rapid early growth, is often favoured by woodland managers in native woodland reforestation, and because it copes with exposure and poor site conditions, can provide shelter for domestic animals in many upland farming regions. The Bronze Birch Borer (BBB) is not present in the UK but is regarded as high risk (UK Pest Risk Register) and represent a serious threat to Scotland’s broadleaved trees, woods and forests. The relative importance of birch to Scottish growers and landscapes suggests a stronger sensitivity to the threat of BBB than generally across the UK; characterization of the BBB threat is poor, e.g. compared to Emerald Ash Borer, a related pest.

This project is being conducted on behalf of the Plant Heath Centre, Scottish Forestry and NatureScot and aims to better characterise the threat of BBB to Scotland.

Impact: Draw together available evidence and, where feasible, gather new evidence relating to the threat of Bronze Birch Borer to Scotland; and provide information to inform contingency plans and make recommendations for further work to refine the evidence.
Project Lead: Mariella Marzano
The UK and Scotland have ambitious tree planting targets, with a major driver being carbon sequestration. Scotland’s Forest Strategy outlines a target of 15,000 ha per year. In addition to carbon management, other major drivers for tree planting are commercial forestry, habitat restoration and the establishment of new woodlands for biodiversity and amenity value. Scotland’s Forest Strategy outlines a target of 3,000-5,000 ha of new native woodland per year, and restoration of an additional 10,000 ha of native woodland. This involves planting a large volume of trees. There is considerable uncertainty as to where and how this volume of trees will be sourced, and associated uncertainty as to the biosecurity threats posed. The aim of this project is to improve our understanding of current biosecurity awareness and practices within the arenas of woodland creation/ expansion and habitat restoration in Scotland.

Impact: Determine the main barriers to ensuring that future planting for environmental restoration and conservation will minimise plant health risks.
Project Lead: Mariella Marzano
Large scale infra-structure projects such as transport networks and major housing projects typically include extensive landscaping and planting programmes. These operate at a large scale, often require instant visual impacts (semi-mature shrubs and trees) and face significant cost pressures. The modest scale of domestic production creates challenges in obtaining material from local sources, which can favour low-cost large-scale plant imports with associated risks of pest and disease entry. This project will fill in key knowledge gaps with those responsible for selecting, procuring and planting plants and trees on a large-scale to provide an understanding of how/whether biosecurity features in their decision-making and make recommendations for any changes required to improve bio-secure practices.

Impact: Provide Scottish Government policy with an assessment of the major biosecurity pitfalls and opportunities arising from large-scale landscaping plantings.
Project Lead: Mariella Marzano
Retail horticulture is a large-scale industry in the UK, with ornamental horticulture and landscaping worth an estimated £24.2 billion national GDP in 2017. The industry is characterised by a large volume of individual transactions and the transport of a diverse range of plant materials (with accompanying soil and packaging) to a highly distributed set of final destinations (households). These horticultural sales represent a complex and pervasive vector network, which carries the risk of transportation of pests and pathogens to surrounding parks and gardens, agricultural systems, woodlands, forests and the wider environment. The diversity of the plant material in trade and the multitude of suppliers and recipients creates a major challenge for managing biosecurity. This project will identify decision-makers, their knowledge, attitudes, and behaviours relating to plant health, and assess opportunities and barriers to better plant biosecurity and the potential role of a Plant Health Assurance Scheme.

Impact: This project will enable policy to identify and prioritise plant biosecurity vulnerabilities from non-specialist and online horticultural sales.
Early scoping of plant health priorities with key Scottish stakeholders and discussions at the PHC launch event indicate a complex landscape of plant health information sources, confusion amongst stakeholders and a perception of information overload. To inform future KE methods and priorities, a network analysis is required to identify the sources of information and the strength of their effect on Scottish stakeholder communities.

Impact: Improved understanding of concepts and options amongst the Scottish stakeholder community; a basis for gap analysis by the PHC.

Publications

Assessment of large-scale biosecurity risks to Scotland

December 2021

PHC commissioned an assessment of large-scale biosecurity risks with a focus on three areas of concern:

  1. non-specialist and online horticulture sales;
  2. landscaping and infrastructure;
  3. planting for environmental benefits.

An additional area was the potential for modelling to support decision making across these areas of concern.  This policy report summaries each report and highlights the key findings and suggested actions.  

Assessment of large-scale plant biosecurity risks to Scotland from non-specialist and online horticultural sales

October 2021

This project focused on an initial exploration of tree and plant biosecurity risks to Scotland arising from large-scale movement of plants via non-specialist (those for which plants are not their primary product type, e.g., supermarkets, DIY and lifestyle stores) and online plant retailers. By better understanding the characteristics of these retailer types, the plant health behaviours they undertake, and the challenges they face, potential avenues were offered for greater engagement and collaboration on biosecurity with this important, but understudied and hard to reach sector.

Assessment of plant biosecurity risks to Scotland from large scale plantings for landscaping and infra-structure projects

October 2021

Planting for large-scale landscaping and infrastructure can typically involve tens of thousands of individual plants, potentially threatening plant health in Scotland due to the biosecurity risks of imports and widespread planting of infested or diseased plants. This project aimed to understand the extent and means to mitigate against such plant biosecurity risks with a focus on mapping the pathways from plant specification through to planting and establishment and highlight different biosecurity awareness for actors, in decision-making and procurement processes.

Assessment of plant biosecurity risks to Scotland from large scale tree plantings for environmental benefits

October 2021

This report features five case studies from across Scotland and examines risks associated with large scale tree planting schemes, levels of awareness around pests and diseases, and how the decisions and actions of those involved can serve to reduce or exacerbate pest and disease related threats and long-term tree health. Each case study was unique in respect to their combination of location, site conditions, ownership, management objectives, species choice, supply chains and management activities. By highlighting best practice and lessons learned, it was hoped to ensure that future planting schemes can be successful and, importantly, reduce the likelihood of pests and diseases being introduced and spread into the wider environment.

The potential of ecological and epidemiological models to inform assessment and mitigation of biosecurity risks arising from large scale planting

October 2021

Large scale planting projects linked to infra-structure such as transport networks and major housing projects or to planting for environmental benefits (e.g. urban greening, woodland restoration) pose high biosecurity risks due to the high number and types of plants involved. This report focusses on whether and how ecological and epidemiological model frameworks can inform assessment and mitigation of biosecurity risks from large scale planting using a combination of literature review and stakeholder engagement.