Forestry Commission Workshop Update: prioritising tree pest and disease risk

CERF recently facilitated a one-day workshop on the prioritisation of tree pest and disease risk. Below is a brief account of what went on, why, and where you can find the results.


In recent years there has been a dramatic increase in the number of pests and diseases introduced to British woodlands. There is also concern that already established organisms (which do not present a problem at present), may reach pest status in response to more favourable environmental conditions resulting from climate change.

Forest managers have of course been reacting to new outbreaks but, as the number of threats increases it becomes more important to identify ways to prioritise their efforts. This issue was highlighted in the Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Action Plan recently published by Defra and the Forestry Commission: 

“We will prioritise our actions on tree pests and diseases by taking account of the level of risk and the value of the nation’s trees and woodlands to society.”

The workshop

CERF were asked to facilitate a workshop organised by the Forestry Commission, to develop a ‘first cut’ method for comparing and prioritising tree pests and diseases. The framework would draw on existing pest risk assessment methods currently employed by the Forestry Commission, and ensure outputs are comparable so that serious issues can be strategically prioritised by management. The framework should be able to be employed to assess both current and future/ emerging risks.


The workshop identified over 50 possible decision criteria, which were clustered into 10 themes. The top 6 criteria deemed of most importance for risk assessment were carried through for the rest of the workshop, where definitions of “high” “medium” and “low” impacts were developed for each. The rough framework was tested during the workshop on a ‘fake’ emerging pest risk, and is now being carried forward for further development by the Forestry Commission. A write-up has been drafted and will be available on Dropbox shortly. Please contact or to request access to this report if you are a working group member and cannot access Dropbox.

For more information on tree pests and diseases, visit the Forestry Commission’s website or follow the blog for emerging risks.

About Hayley Shaw

Knowledge Exchange Manager at Cranfield University's Centre for Environmental Risks and Futures (CERF). Sharing the latest news from Cranfield, and insights from across the industry. All things risk, environment, and the future.
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