Chris Pollard

Social Scientist
Forest Research


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
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.


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.