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OPAL survey helps people turn over a new leaf

20 September 2013

The Open Air Laboratories (OPAL) project received a grant of £11.75 million from the Big Lottery Fund in 2007 to develop a wide range of local and national programmes encouraging people from all backgrounds to get back in touch with nature. Earlier this month OPAL received further funding to extend its work into Scotland Wales and Northern Ireland.

In this guest blog, OPAL’s Sarah West explains more about its Tree Health Survey which comes to a close at the end of September. So far nearly 1,000 people have submitted feedback from hands-on experiments and there’s still time for you to get involved too.

Lady inspecting tree as part of survey

Nearly 1,000 people have submitted Tree Health Survey Results

There’s an autumnal feeling in the air with dew on the grass in the mornings, garden spiders appearing everywhere and leaves starting to turn brown.

The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed that the leaves on some horse chestnut trees have been brown all summer. If you look at these leaves closely you may see evidence of a fungal disease called leaf-blotch, or leaf-miner, a tiny moth whose caterpillars live between the surfaces of the leaf.

The BIG-funded OPAL project has developed a Tree Health Survey which allows people to learn about some of the pests and diseases that affect trees, and now is the perfect time to take part.

Trees are a vital part of our environment, providing homes for wildlife and cleaning the air we breathe. They also give us shade and shelter and are an important visual aspect of our landscapes in both rural and urban areas. It’s really important, therefore, that we monitor their health.

All across the UK, people have been going out to inspect their local trees, using free resources developed by the OPAL project. We’ve produced a wall-chart and mobile phone app which people have found useful for identifying the tree varieties, and instructions on how to measure a tree’s height using only a piece of paper and a 1m ruler!

Hundreds of people have received training from OPAL Community Scientists in how to do the Tree Health Survey with groups, and nearly 1,000 people have uploaded their results. Many have commented on how useful the resources have been for helping them to look more closely at the trees in their local area, and have enjoyed learning about some of the other organisms they support.

Man inspects insects

The Tree Health Survey brings people closer to the nature around them

Many of the common pests and diseases affecting trees will not damage the tree significantly, but some are more worrying as they can weaken or even kill the tree. You may have read in the news about some of these serious pests and diseases, such as Chalara Ash dieback, Oak decline, and Oak and Pine Processionary moths, as many people are concerned that they could do significant harm to large numbers of trees.

The good news is that we can all do something to help stop the spread of these pests and diseases: we just need to go out and look for them! You can download your tree health survey pack from the OPAL website and submit your results to us until the end of September.

It’s really important that after you’ve done the survey, you upload your results to the OPAL website or send them back using our free-post address. Even if you didn’t find a pest or disease, this will help us to map the health of trees across Britain and track any future changes. So go on, what are you waiting for?

Sarah West is Community Scientist at OPAL project

What do you think of Sarah’s guest blog? Have you taken part in the Tree Health Survey?

Leave your comments on the blog below or join the conversation on Twitter using #biglf

One Comment leave one →
  1. Jim Wood permalink
    20 September 2013 12:21 pm

    Reblogged this on Time for Action.

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