Citizen scientists help protect native trees

15th May 2013

A major survey into the health of native trees in the Yorkshire and Humberside region is launched this week at a York nature reserve.

Volunteers are joining Open Air Laboratories (OPAL) community scientists at the St Nicholas Fields Nature Reserve on Thursday, 16 May to learn how to monitor trees for pests and diseases.

The regional launch event organised by OPAL scientists based in the Stockholm Environment Institute at the University of York, is part of a national Tree Health Survey.

Volunteers will be looking out for common pests and diseases of Ash, Oak and Horse Chestnut, like Oak and Ash decline, Bleeding canker of the Horse chestnut and Nectria canker of the Ash.

York-based OPAL scientist Dr Alison Dyke said: “Our native trees may be under threat from pests and diseases that can weaken or even kill them. Ash dieback has received a lot of media coverage and we want members of the public to keep their eyes open for this and other diseases. We can only protect our trees if we know where the problems are.

“The Tree Health Survey will help turn the public into citizen scientists and form an early warning system for our nation’s trees.”

The survey, designed in collaboration with Forest Research and the Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA), includes activities such as identifying tree species, measuring height and examining trees for signs of poor health. Any tree can be surveyed and all of the information submitted will help scientists build up a picture of tree health across the UK.

Following the event on Thursday, the trained volunteers will share their knowledge with visitors to St Nicholas Fields and also take part in a drop-in Nature Counts event on 17 and 18 May. Run by the Friends of St Nicholas Fields, the aim of the event is to see how many different species can be recorded on the nature reserve during the two days.

More information about the Tree Health Survey is available at For more information on Nature Counts visit

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