The sector represents a major component of Scotland’s rural economy – providing significant employment and raw materials for wood processing industries. Sustainable forest management seeks to deliver these economic benefits alongside important ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration and flood mitigation, provision of wildlife habitat and opportunities for recreation and a range of leisure activities. Pests and diseases threaten the continued long-term delivery of these benefits.
The forest area of Scotland expanded during the twentieth century through the efforts of the Forestry Commission and private owners to develop a domestic wood supply and provide rural employment. A number of introduced species, such as Sitka spruce, were key to afforestation of marginal agricultural sites and now are central to the wood processing industry. Woodland now occupies approximately 17% of the land area of Scotland and provides 44% of the GB softwood harvest, producing about 1.5 million m3 of sawn softwood. Plant health threats to the forestry sector include a number of recently introduced pests and diseases (e.g. Phytophthora ramorum, pine tree lappet moth, ash die-back), on-going management of endemic ones (e.g. large pine weevil and Heterobasidium annosum) and risks of those yet to arrive (emerald ash borer, Ips typographus and many other organisms potentially introduced through trade in plants, wood and packaging).
Impact: This project will contribute to Scottish Government’s preparedness measures for the possible arrival of Xylella fastidiosa by ensuring surveillance monitoring is effective and by identifying the key knowledge gaps for effective surveillance.
Impact: Easily accessible tool for stakeholders and government plant health officials to assess possible impacts of climate on pests and pathogens in Scotland.
Compared to threats such as climate change and habitat fragmentation, plant health issues are poorly represented in international and national biodiversity strategies such as the Aichi Targets of the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation, and the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy. Work is thus required to provide strategic guidance on the inclusion of plant health threats into the next iteration of the biodiversity strategies.
Impact: Direct guidance and input for plant health issues into the new Scottish Biodiversity Strategy; best-practice example of plant health integration into national biodiversity planning (model for other countries).
The aim of this commission is to establish the template and initial population of a curated online resource bank for plant health threats to the natural environment in Scotland. This will include assembly of, or signposting to, available existing resources. Where applicable, it will also include authoritative distillations of the key issues targeted at non-specialists. Where there are conflicting sources of advice/recommendations, the scope is not to achieve reconciliation of these issues, but rather to simply note that different perspectives exist. The content will be housed on the Plant Health Centre website (https://www.planthealthcentre.scot/).
Impact: Increasing the accessibility of information for land managers with responsibility for the natural environment, but a lack of specialist expertise in plant health
Impact: Improved understanding of concepts and options amongst the Scottish stakeholder community; a basis for gap analysis by the PHC.
Impact: Improved understanding of concepts and options amongst stakeholder community in
Scotland; a basis for gap analysis by PHC.
Impact: Improved risk assessment; better equipped stakeholders and government plant health officials; improved coordination of plant health activities in Scotland.
Although Xylella has so far not been detected in Scotland, an outbreak would have serious impacts on any host plant-related activities/businesses and the wider environment. An essential aspect of ensuring Scotland’s preparedness for the possible arrival of Xylella is to prepare a risk map for the likelihood of the arrival of Xylella together with the consequences for key elements of the Scottish economy (directly and indirectly impacted) in the event of an outbreak. Data relevant to the risk mapping for Scotland would include location of sites involved in plant imports, volume of plants imported, impact on business trading in plants if an outbreak is detected and the wider environmental impact.
Impact: This project will contribute to Scottish Government’s contingency and preparedness measures for the possible arrival of Xylella fastidiosa by mapping the risk of likelihood and impact of an outbreak.
There are several species of insects that could vector Xylella fastidiosa in the UK including the meadow spittlebug (Philaenus spumarius), which is very common in Scotland. An outbreak of Xylella in Scotland would have serious impacts on the affected grower/nursery and any other host plant-related activities/business within a 5km buffer zone. Therefore, in order to establish the potential for these bacteria to spread, should they be introduced, it is important to identify and get an understanding of the abundance of potential Xylella vectors in Scotland. The WrEN project (http://www.wrenproject.com/), presents a unique opportunity to make use of existing insect collections to map the occurrence of potential Xylella vectors within agricultural woodlands across Scotland. Since 2013, partners on the WrEN project have surveyed over 130 secondary and ancient woodland sites for habitat and wildlife in two regions of mainland Britain. To date, over 1100 species have been recorded from a wide range of taxa. Vegetation structure has been characterised at all sites including information on tree species richness, tree density and size, understorey and canopy cover. In addition, the surrounding landscape has been mapped at a range of spatial scales up to 3 km from each site.
Impact: This project will contribute to Scottish Government’s preparedness measures for the possible
arrival of Xylella fastidiosa by identifying and mapping the distribution of potential vectors of Xylella
Heritage gardens play an important role in plant conservation. They house collections gathered over decades or even hundreds of years, including varieties of plants that may be overlooked elsewhere, fostering heirloom varieties and preserving biological diversity that is the raw material of adaptation. As well as being beautiful and tranquil sites of cultural heritage, these ex-situ resources are treasure troves of biological diversity. Arduaine Gardens shows us that tough choices can be necessary and important to preserve these collections and the surrounding environment.