The UK Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has launched a project monitoring disease in trees via satellite.
The UK-wide project, which is set to cover 130,000 sq km, will use satellite monitoring technology provided by geospatial data analytics firm Rezatec to map and identify the health status of oak and ash trees; with a ‘disturbance layer’ to be added after the initial mapping project, which will give updates on trees affected by disease. The nationwide rollout of the satellite disease monitoring capability follows a successful pilot of the project, which was completed in Devon in 2017.
Tim Vallings, Chief Commercial Officer at Rezatec, said: “As a result of our initial project, we have demonstrated to DEFRA an evidence-based approach to accurate and cost effective monitoring, over a wide area focusing on species identification and tree health by specific species. For the first time, species maps can be used as a reference for targeting areas of most need and we are pleased to be expanding the project nationwide, providing DEFRA and the wider community at county council level with this ability.”
Invasive fungal tree diseases are a prevailing issue affecting England’s woodland and forested areas, with ash dieback identified as a particularly destructive disease. DEFRA expects that the satellite disease monitoring scheme will enable the government to deploy ground teams, who can address the problem directly and potentially remove badly affected trees which pose a public risk, to greater effect.
Sam Grant, a statistician with DEFRA’s Plant Health department, said: “Following a small-scale trial Defra has asked Rezatec to identify woodland ash and oak and monitor them for disease. Using satellite data analytics allows us to optimise our resources, as well as enabling us to be more pro-active in combatting tree disease and increasing our public spend efficiency. DEFRA is pleased to be taking a lead in using the latest technologies to address the issues we face.”