Our aim is to protect the UK’s trees, woods and forests from new and introduced pests and diseases, including those arriving and those spreading across the country. The earlier these are spotted, the higher the chances that outbreaks can be eliminated or controlled.

Why do we need Observatree?

Our trees are under an unprecedented threat from new pests and diseases from around the world. They usually arrive in the UK through global trade in live plants and packing materials, or through natural processes such as windblown spores across country boundaries. Climate change is also playing a part with reduced incidence of cold wet weather in winter, which in the past would have killed emerging larvae that had arrived from warmer climates, means more species can now survive here.

These new pests and diseases can have a devastating impact on our trees and woodland. Our trees have no resistance to these new threats, and none of the natural predators which would keep them in check in their native environments. Protecting trees from these threats is vital for the future of our trees, woodlands and forests.

The Government’s strategy to tackle this issue has three principles:

  1. Prevent the arrival of new pests and diseases
  2. If they are found in the UK, eradicate them before they become established and spread
  3. If eradication proves impossible, control and manage them

Credit: Suzy Sancisi-Frey - Forest Research

We work with a team of specialist volunteers

Our volunteers form a UK network of over 200 citizen scientists. They undertake a range of surveys to assist with spotting new tree pests or diseases and monitoring the spread of existing ones.

Credit: Rebecca Gosling - Woodland Trust

We focus on reporting high priority pests and diseases

The project focuses on 22 pests and diseases which are of the highest concern. We train our volunteers to be able to identify and report these threats. We also encourage tree health professionals, and people actively involved with trees, to report any findings of concern. More eyes on the ground means a greater chance of earlier detection. A wide range of resources and training materials are available to help you improve your tree health knowledge.

In Northern Ireland, reports can be made via TreeCheck

Credit: Phil Lockwood

We aid the Government's tree health staff

Our volunteers help us to verify pest and disease reports received through Tree Alert. Volunteers may also carry out site visits to collect samples and additional survey information. By doing all of this, it means that scientists and tree health officers can concentrate their time on the most significant threats to our trees, woods and forests.

Credit: Rebecca Gosling - Woodland Trust

We share best practice

We conduct research into what tree health early warning systems are used in other European countries, learn from their experience and share what we are doing in the UK. This will lead to the production of best practice protocols for establishing tree health early warning systems in Europe. Take a look at our best practice guides.

More about Observatree