Final Report and Policy Document

Plant Health and the Natural Environment Fellowship

Ruth Mitchell
Sector: Environment
Authors: Ruth Mitchell

The Natural Environment sector underpins Scotland’s landscapes, biodiversity, rural industries and recreational activities, but plant health awareness is less well developed than in the forestry, horticulture and agriculture sectors. The PHC funded a fellowship with NatureScot, to address this gap including to, i) gain a better understanding of stakeholder awareness of plant health risks, particularly with respect to habitat restoration and creation, ii) identify pests and pathogens that threaten Scottish dwarf shrub heathlands and iii) develop a framework for assessing risks to plant health in the natural environment and implementing actions to both reduce these risks and mitigate them if pests do establish.

Recommendations from the fellowship include: (i) emphasising to stakeholders involved in habitat creation/restoration the importance of having both plant health risk assessments and biosecurity guidance/best practice protocols in place, and ensuring there is a named individual responsible for biosecurity; (ii) improvements to the UK Plant Health Risk Register (PHRR) to better include the impact of plant pest/pathogens on the natural environment; (iii) using the pest lists collated as part of the fellowship as an awareness raising exercise to highlight the risks to other non-woodland habitats and (iv) clarifying roles and responsibilities for plant health in the natural environment and creating a standard operating procedure for identification of, and response to, plant pests in the environment.

This fellowship has led to the creation of a Biosecurity Best Practice for Conservation guidance document