Abstract: The number of emerging tree diseases has increased rapidly in recent times, with severe environmental and economic consequences. Systematic regulatory surveys to detect and establish the distribution of pests are crucial for successful management efforts, but resource-intensive and costly. Volunteers who identify potential invasive species can form an important early warning network in tree health; however, what these data can tell us and how they can be best used to inform and direct official survey effort is not clear. Here, we use an extensive dataset on acute oak decline (AOD) as an opportunity to ask how verified data received from the public can be used. Information on the distribution of AOD was available as (i) systematic regulatory surveys conducted throughout England and Wales, and (ii) ad hoc sightings reported by landowners, land managers and members of the public (i.e. ‘self-reported’ cases). By using the available self-reported cases at the design stage, the systematic survey could focus on defining the boundaries of the affected area. This maximized the use of available resources and highlights the benefits to be gained by developing strategies to enhance volunteer efforts in future programmes.

Source: Brown, N., van den Bosch, F., Parnell, S., Denman, S., 2017. Integrating regulatory surveys and citizen science to map outbreaks of forest diseases: acute oak decline in England and Wales. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Biological Sciences, Vol 284(1859). DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2017.0547