Tree Health & Plant Biosecurity Initiative


The Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Expert Taskforce published its interim report in December giving recommendations for protecting our trees and plants.  The challenges and objectives set out in that report are now being taken forward by LWEP, which is planning a Town Meeting in London on 14 February 2013 to set out its plans and seek more partners and collaborators.  Check out their initiative at

The Living With Environmental Change Partnership (LWEP) consists of “22 public sector organisations that fund, carry out and use environmental research and observations.  They include the UK research councils, government departments with environmental responsibilities, devolved administrations and government agencies. The private sector is represented by a Business Advisory Board”.  The Partnership has been brought together “to ensure that decision makers in government, business and society have the knowledge, foresight and tools to mitigate, adapt to and benefit from environmental change”.

We wait to hear what progress and what impact they can make on this crucial area of biosecurity.  The problems are immense and it is as if the Government, or its agents, have just awoken, like Sleeping Beauty, from a long slumber and found there is so much to do and so little time available.

The Taskforce recommendations speak about developing, strengthening, identifying and maximising various factors that have a bearing on the management of our tree and vegetation resource.

In effect the recommendations can be read as indicators of our failure to manage this resource;

Basically, we don’t have a prioritised UK Risk Register for tree health and plant biosecurity.

Our biosecurity is weak, or not strong enough, to effectively reduce risks at the border and within the UK.

We don’t have a Chief Plant Health Officer or other top person to mastermind biosecurity.

The current governance and legislation is too complicated and ineffective.

We don’t make the most of epidemiological intelligence from EU and other regions.  In other words, we are behind the times technologically and legislatively and not sufficiently in touch with other professionals around the world.  Currently we are not sufficiently prepared to predict, monitor and control future outbreaks and spread of diseases.

Our current systems are not modern or user-friendly and they can’t provide quick and intelligent access to data about tree health and biosecurity.

There is a key-skills shortage in the UK tree and plant sector in regard to tree health and biosecurity.

The Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Expert Taskforce is an independent group, drawn from key members of the academic community. It brings a multi-disciplinary perspective to ensure Defra has access to the most up-to-date and robust evidence to inform decisions on dealing with tree and plant disease.

The Taskforce has published its interim recommendations to Defra:

Interim Report – Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Expert Taskforce

These findings are a cause for major disquiet and worry.  How have we got into this situation, or is it one we have always been in?  Clearly, we have either buried our heads in the sand and ignored the problem until now or we have lost control and declined from a stronger position.

Either way, the only appropriate response is to wake up and do something definite in order to change the situation and reach a point where we are sufficiently in control of the situation to safeguard jobs, professions and, ultimately landscapes that are vital for UK ltd.

It seems to me LWEC, and the rest of us in the arboriculture, landscape and forestry sectors, have quite a struggle ahead.


Article written by Steve Cox on January 29, 2013