Final Report and Policy Document

Assessing spread of Phytophthoras in Scottish forests by recreational and harvesting activities using comparative qPCR and metabarcoding techniques

Nature Autumn (by Valiphotos from Pixabay)

Pathogens from the genus Phytophthora pose some of the greatest threats to tree health and are likely to become increasingly prevalent in the UK as the climate becomes warmer and wetter. This project added new data based on a DNA metabarcoding approach to determine the Phytophthora species diversity in soil samples and sampled material from timber harvesting operations alongside those of recreational activities. Methods of detecting presence of potential pathogens are also compared.  The results of the study provided evidence that P. ramorum and other Phytophthora species can be picked up and moved via boots, bike tyres and harvesters, indicating that pathogens capable of causing tree mortality can potentially be spread by recreational and harvesting activities into new areas; if viable, these pathogens could start new outbreaks. Further work to determine pathogen viability and the potential to start new infections would be valuable in the future. These results underline the importance of good biosecurity practice as advocated by campaigns such as ’Keep it clean’.  The recommendations for forestry practitioners would be to ensure boots and machinery are thoroughly cleaned before moving to a different location.  Forests used by public for recreational activities would also benefit from biosecurity messaging around cleaning boots and bike tyres before and after entering the forest.

Image by Valiphotos from Pixabay