Native trees are under constant threat from alien pests and diseases, as exemplified by recent outbreaks affecting ash and sweet chestnut trees. Such outbreaks have massive social and economic impacts, and motivate the need to sustain their existence through suitable planning and management. Climate change exacerbates this threat by promoting the migration, survival and growth of alien pathogens. The Department for Environmental, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) have highlighted the importance of modelling in developing robust plans and management policies for minimising the impacts of these threats.
The project aims to identify practical strategies to build resilience to tree disease outbreaks in the face of climate change. We will develop spatio-temporal models of disease spread (see image), based upon national tree maps, field data, and projected changes in pathogen transmission over the next decade. This approach will be applied to existing pests/diseases and hypothetical future pathogens, and will incorporate effects such as seasonal weather patterns, year-on-year climate trends (following the latest projection scenarios from the IPCC) and regional variability. Importantly, we will use the model to test the effectiveness of a variety of scenarios designed to build resilience against outbreaks of tree disease, such as planting strategies, species diversification, tree-scape management, and tree culling, along with mixes of these. The project will be take place within the Mathematical Biology and Archaelogy Research group, and make use of Newcastle University’s state-of-the-art high-performance computing facilities. It will be performed in collaboration with Defra, giving the student direct experience of working with government policy makers, and will support Defra’s national strategies for mitigating the effects of alien tree pathogens.
This project is part of the ONE Planet DTP. Find out more here: View Website