Galloway people invited to become tree buddies

Environment and Climate Change Minister, Paul Wheelhouse, is urging people in Galloway to get involved with a UK-wide initiative that aims to build a comprehensive picture of tree health issues.

The survey of the health of Britain’s broadleaved trees is part of the Open Air Laboratory (OPAL) project that aims to involve lay people in ‘citizen science’. The tree health topic is the seventh in the project.

The survey has been designed by Imperial College London in partnership with FERA and Forest Research, the research arm of Forestry Commission Scotland. Forestry Commission Scotland has also funded 3000 survey packs for distribution around the country as part of its commitment to the Year of Natural Scotland.

Mr Wheelhouse said: “Trees are a vital and much-loved part of all our lives but, as we all know, they are increasingly under threat from pests and diseases such as Chalara dieback of Ash and Dothistroma needle blight. Even with the best will in the world scientists, foresters and woodland managers can’t check every single tree or woodland quickly enough to give us a comprehensive picture of the state of health of our trees.

“With this initiative communities around the UK will be exploring their local area to find and survey local trees. It only takes about half an hour to complete but the data gathered can potentially be of great assistance to the scientists and researchers who are engaging with these issues to manage tree health more effectively.

“At the moment Scotland is under represented in the survey results so I would urge anyone with an interest in trees – or in science – to get a pack and get surveying!”

A survey pack and information – including reusable guides and tree ID poster - can be downloaded from the OPAL website at

Then, between now and late September, citizen surveyors only have to find a site with safe access to one or more broadleaved trees - and start surveying. Results can be submitted online. Printed packs and survey response forms are also available.

Anyone with a professional interest in trees and forestry is also being asked to volunteer their expertise by becoming Tree Buddies to help members of the public and schools carry out the survey, improve their learning experience and provide more accurate and reliable results.

Tree buddies could go out with friends and family to carry out a tree survey, hold OPAL Tree Health Survey events for the public, host group consultation sessions or even set up a recording scheme in your local area.