Rehema White

Sustainability Scientist
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: Rehema White
We have commissioned a project to review and further develop the PHC’s Communications Strategy to help develop further networks and collaborations, while building on existing relationships to improve knowledge flows in relation to plant health across Scotland. This project will draw on and align with previous and ongoing PHC research projects and will address:

1. What is the overall goal and vision for PHC and how do we articulate this for different groups and sectors?
2. What do we want to communicate, when and to whom?
3. How do we want to communicate to different audiences and for these different purposes?
4. How do we optimise budget and human resource in communicating about plant health?

Impact: The outcome of this project will be a Communication Strategy outlining the goal of communication, roles and responsibilities and a process, including an annual cycle of reflection to permit update or modification on a regular basis and linking to the communication matrix.
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
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

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.