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Understanding biotic threats

This programme will provide the evidence base for managing resilient forests better able to cope with the biotic challenges of the 21st Century.


This programme aims to increase our understanding of forest resilience to pests and pathogens and to mitigate risk of future outbreaks by:

  • Investigating how environmental factors influence pest and pathogen behaviour.
  • Examining the evidence for natural resistance in UK tree populations.
  • Identifying key future threats and promoting preparedness for them.
  • Investigating methods for improved surveillance and detection.

Innovation potential

The research in this programme will lead to a more fundamental understanding of the nature of biotic threats. Data generated will inform management and mitigation strategies, in some cases underpinning the development of resistant species breeding programmes, new control options, and surveillance and detection tools with marketable value, such as metabarcoding.

Work Packages

WP1 - Environmental effects on pest and disease impacts
Examines the environmental influences on pest and pathogen behaviour, identifying those influences that can be manipulated to enhance forest resilience and improve pest/disease risk analyses.

WP2 -Understanding natural resistance
This work package aims to achieve a greater understanding of natural resistance in a number of key host species. The overall hypothesis is that individuals with greater heritable resistance can be identified. The long-term goals of this WP are to generate resistant tree populations to assist the recovery of damaged plantation forest and natural woodland ecosystems and promote management methods that exploit natural resistance.

WP3 - Future threats
Building resilience in forests to future biotic threats relies on understanding the nature of those threats and being prepared for them. The overall aim of work package 3 is to identify key future threats and promote preparedness for them. An element of this preparedness will stem from a better understanding of past outbreaks in addition to future predictive analyses of spatial distribution.

WP4 - Surveillance and detection
Effective surveillance and detection methods are integral to rapid eradication or control and in understanding population spread of invasive species. This work package aims to investigate methods for improved surveillance and detection of pests and pathogens based on a greater understanding of their epidemiology.

Last updated: 2nd August 2016