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Agency: GTR | Branch: EPSRC | Program: | Phase: Training Grant | Award Amount: 4.34M | Year: 2014

This world-leading Centre for Doctoral Training in Bioenergy will focus on delivering the people to realise the potential of biomass to provide secure, affordable and sustainable low carbon energy in the UK and internationally. Sustainably-sourced bioenergy has the potential to make a major contribution to low carbon pathways in the UK and globally, contributing to the UKs goal of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 and the international mitigation target of a maximum 2 degrees Celsius temperature rise. Bioenergy can make a significant contribution to all three energy sectors: electricity, heat and transport, but faces challenges concerning technical performance, cost effectiveness, ensuring that it is sustainably produced and does not adversely impact food security and biodiversity. Bioenergy can also contribute to social and economic development in developing countries, by providing access to modern energy services and creating job opportunities both directly and in the broader economy. Many of the challenges associated with realising the potential of bioenergy have engineering and physical sciences at their core, but transcend traditional discipline boundaries within and beyond engineering. This requires an effective whole systems research training response and given the depth and breadth of the bioenergy challenge, only a CDT will deliver the necessary level of integration. Thus, the graduates from the CDT in Bioenergy will be equipped with the tools and skills to make intelligent and informed, responsible choices about the implementation of bioenergy, and the growing range of social and economic concerns. There is projected to be a large absorptive capacity for trained individuals in bioenergy, far exceeding current supply. A recent report concerning UK job creation in bioenergy sectors concluded that there may be somewhere in the region of 35-50,000 UK jobs in bioenergy by 2020 (NNFCC report for DECC, 2012). This concerned job creation in electricity production, heat, and anaerobic digestion (AD) applications of biomass. The majority of jobs are expected to be technical, primarily in the engineering and construction sectors during the building and operation of new bioenergy facilities. To help develop and realise the potential of this sector, the CDT will build strategically on our research foundation to deliver world-class doctoral training, based around key areas: [1] Feedstocks, pre-processing and safety; [2] Conversion; [3] Utilisation, emissions and impact; [4] Sustainability and Whole systems. Theme 1 will link feedstocks to conversion options, and Themes 2 and 3 include the core underpinning science and engineering research, together with innovation and application. Theme 4 will underpin this with a thorough understanding of the whole energy system including sustainability, social, economic public and political issues, drawing on world-leading research centres at Leeds. The unique training provision proposed, together with the multidisciplinary supervisory team will ensure that students are equipped to become future leaders, and responsible innovators in the bioenergy sector.

Agency: GTR | Branch: NERC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 1.30M | Year: 2013

Anthropogenic disturbance and land-use change in the tropics is leading to irrevocable changes in biodiversity and substantial shifts in ecosystem biogeochemistry. Yet, we still have a poor understanding of how human-driven changes in biodiversity feed back to alter biogeochemical processes. This knowledge gap substantially restricts our ability to model and predict the response of tropical ecosystems to current and future environmental change. There are a number of critical challenges to our understanding of how changes in biodiversity may alter ecosystem processes in the tropics; namely: (i) how the high taxonomic diversity of the tropics is linked to ecosystem functioning, (ii) how changes in the interactions among trophic levels and taxonomic groups following disturbance impacts upon functional diversity and biogeochemistry, and (iii) how plot-level measurements can be used to scale to whole landscapes. We have formed a consortium to address these critical challenges to launch a large-scale, replicated, and fully integrated study that brings together a multi-disciplinary team with the skills and expertise to study the necessary taxonomic and trophic groups, different biogeochemical processes, and the complex interactions amongst them. To understand and quantify the effects of land-use change on the activity of focal biodiversity groups and how this impacts biogeochemistry, we will: (i) analyse pre-existing data on distributions of focal biodiversity groups; (ii) sample the landscape-scale treatments at the Stability of Altered Forest Ecosystems (SAFE) Project site (treatments include forest degradation, fragmentation, oil palm conversion) and key auxiliary sites (Maliau Basin - old growth on infertile soils, Lambir Hills - old growth on fertile soils, Sabah Biodiversity Experiment - rehabilitated forest, INFAPRO-FACE - rehabilitated forest); and (iii) implement new experiments that manipulate key components of biodiversity and pathways of belowground carbon flux. The manipulations will focus on trees and lianas, mycorrhizal fungi, termites and ants, because these organisms are the likely agents of change for biogeochemical cycling in human-modified tropical forests. We will use a combination of cutting-edge techniques to test how these target groups of organisms interact each other to affect biogeochemical cycling. We will additionally collate and analyse archived data on other taxa, including vertebrates of conservation concern. The key unifying concept is the recognition that so-called functional traits play a key role in linking taxonomic diversity to ecosystem function. We will focus on identifying key functional traits associated with plants, and how they vary in abundance along the disturbance gradient at SAFE. In particular, we propose that leaf functional traits (e.g. physical and chemical recalcitrance, nitrogen content, etc.) play a pivotal role in determining key ecosystem processes and also strongly influence atmospheric composition. Critically, cutting-edge airborne remote sensing techniques suggest it is possible to map leaf functional traits, chemistry and physiology at landscape-scales, and so we will use these novel airborne methods to quantify landscape-scale patterns of forest degradation, canopy structure, biogeochemical cycling and tree distributions. Process-based mathematical models will then be linked to the remote sensing imagery and ground-based measurements of functional diversity and biogeochemical cycling to upscale our findings over disturbance gradients.

Boyd I.L.,University of St. Andrews | Freer-Smith P.H.,Japan Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute | Gilligan C.A.,University of Cambridge | Godfray H.C.J.,University of Oxford
Science | Year: 2013

Trees and forests provide a wide variety of ecosystem services in addition to timber, food, and other provisioning services. New approaches to pest and disease management are needed that take into account these multiple services and the different stakeholders they benefit, as well as the likelihood of greater threats in the future resulting from globalization and climate change. These considerations will affect priorities for both basic and applied research and how trade and phytosanitary regulations are formulated.

Hashimoto S.,Japan Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute
PLoS ONE | Year: 2012

Soil greenhouse gas fluxes (particularly CO2, CH4, and N2O) play important roles in climate change. However, despite the importance of these soil greenhouse gases, the number of reports on global soil greenhouse gas fluxes is limited. Here, new estimates are presented for global soil CO2 emission (total soil respiration), CH4 uptake, and N2O emission fluxes, using a simple data-oriented model. The estimated global fluxes for CO2 emission, CH4 uptake, and N2O emission were 78 Pg C yr-1 (Monte Carlo 95% confidence interval, 64-95 Pg C yr-1), 18 Tg C yr-1 (11-23 Tg C yr-1), and 4.4 Tg N yr-1 (1.4-11.1 Tg N yr-1), respectively. Tropical regions were the largest contributor of all of the gases, particularly the CO2 and N2O fluxes. The soil CO2 and N2O fluxes had more pronounced seasonal patterns than the soil CH4 flux. The collected estimates, including both the previous and the present estimates, demonstrate that the means of the best estimates from each study were 79 Pg C yr-1 (291 Pg CO2 yr-1; coefficient of variation, CV = 13%, N = 6) for CO2, 21 Tg C yr-1 (29 Tg CH4 yr-1; CV = 24%, N = 24) for CH4, and 7.8 Tg N yr-1 (12.2 Tg N2O yr-1; CV = 38%, N = 11) for N2O. For N2O, the mean of the estimates that was calculated by excluding the earliest two estimates was 6.6 Tg N yr-1 (10.4 Tg N2O yr-1; CV = 22%, N = 9). The reported estimates vary and have large degrees of uncertainty but their overall magnitudes are in general agreement. To further minimize the uncertainty of soil greenhouse gas flux estimates, it is necessary to build global databases and identify key processes in describing global soil greenhouse gas fluxes. © 2012 Shoji Hashimoto.

Agency: GTR | Branch: BBSRC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 199.27K | Year: 2014

The Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Expert Taskforce has identified a number of insects that pose a threat to UK trees and recommended that the UK Develop and implement procedures for preparedness and contingency planning to predict, monitor and control the spread of pests. They also identified detection and biological control as areas of tree health where there were considerable knowledge gaps. BIPESCO is an interdisciplinary project that will develop entomopathogenic fungi (EPF) and botanicals to control insect pests that pose a threat to UK trees. Botanicals with attractant or repellent properties will be used alone or with EPF in novel lure and kill and stress and kill pest control strategies. Attractants will be used to improve pest monitoring and mass trapping. BIPESCO is timely because new EU legislation encourages the use of natural products as environmentally friendly alternatives to conventional chemical pesticides, usage of which is being severely restricted (Directive 2009/128/EC). Demand for natural products is increasing, and will continue to increase. Thus, opportunity exists to develop these agents, and strategies that enhance their efficacy, to facilitate adoption in the market. BIPESCOs specific aims are: 1. Identify strains of EPF pathogenic to current and emergent pest species. 2. Identify botanicals that attract or repel target pests. 3. Optimise synergy of EPF and botanicals for use in lure and kill and stress and kill strategies, and increase knowledge of mechanisms involved. 4. Validate efficacy of candidate EPF and botanicals in demonstration trials 5. Conduct risk assessments of products and strategies 6. Utilise data to determine socioeconomic benefits of products and strategies. BIPESCO (Swansea University [SU; lead], Fera and Forest Research [FR]) have considerable experience in management of tree pests and development of new products and strategies to control them. SU has developed EPF and botanicals for pest control including the EPF Metarhizium anisopliae, which is effective in controlling pine weevil (PW) and black vine weevil. SU has identified several PW behaviour-modifying botanicals, and patented a PW attractant. SU will use its expertise to develop attractants and repellents for other pest species. Fera has experience working with emergent pest species such as oak processionary moth (a close relative of the pine processionary moth, PPM) and Asian longhorned beetle (ALB). Fera will evaluate EPF and botanicals provided by SU against PPM and ALB in state-of-the-art quarantine facilities. Together with SU, they will identify synergies between EPF and botanicals and elucidate how stressing compounds enhance EPF efficacy. FR has expertise in management and modelling of a range of forest pests and has developed systems that advise growers on when to use pesticides. Together with SU and Fera, FR will test selected products and strategies in forest systems. BIPESCO will also conduct risk assessments on products and strategies, and generate knowledge on their socio-economic benefits. BIPESCO has the support of seven industry partners (Sentomol, Lisk & Jones, UPM, Maelor Nurseries, Neem Biotech, Fargro and Greenerpol), representing the supply chain. The support (worth £328,591) includes resources (e.g. materials, trial sites, labour) and advice, giving added value to the project. BIPESCOs outputs (indicated in specific aims, above) will have considerable academic and commercial impact. They will benefit forestry, commercial nurseries, and local authorities (urban landscapes), and will lead to strong and on-going collaborations with pest control and related companies. The outputs will provide solutions to control of potential invasive pests such as ALB, in accord with the LWEC call. This project will provide products and strategies for a large and expanding pest control market currently worth $49 billion, but expected to reach $59 billion by 2016.

Agency: GTR | Branch: BBSRC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 1.00M | Year: 2016

This project will address the risks to UK tree species from Phytophthora introduction and spread by; i) examining the current distribution and diversity of Phytophthoras in UK plant nursery systems, ii) providing the evidence base to refine nursery best practice criteria for a UK-wide voluntary nursery accreditation scheme, iii) identifying those Phytophthora species not currently present in the UK but which pose the greatest threat to our ecosystems based on their biological traits and environmental profiles, iv) identifying key international pathways for Phytophthora spread and national points for biosecurity focus and v) understanding better the risk of genetic interaction occurring when Phytophthoras meet, resulting in new aggressive types. To achieve these objectives, the distribution and diversity of Phytophthora species in water and plant samples collected from different UK plant nursery management systems, including those locations considered to be high risk in terms of importing new Phytophthoras, will be studied using state-of-the-art DNA sequencing technology. Water samples from streams and ponds in amenity environments will also be collected to investigate the wider distribution of nursery-associated Phytophthoras. This work will identify nursery practices resulting in the highest density and diversity of Phytophthora pathogens and the highest probability of onward spread into woodland or other natural ecosystems. These data will provide evidence to guide the development of a UK-wide voluntary nursery accreditation scheme. Nurseries signing up to the scheme will adhere to a set of best practice criteria designed to reduce the risks of importation and dissemination of Phytophthoras. Feasibility assessments will involve consultation with nursery managers, consumers and other stakeholders in order to identify economic and social opportunities and barriers, and attitudes towards implementation of such a scheme. We will also explore options to promote the visibility and legitimacy of the accreditation scheme to consumers such that there is an added advantage for nurseries to take part. Identifying future global Phytophthora threats and potential routes of entry will be essential in refining nursery best practice and other national biosecurity measures. To do this, data on current known global distribution of Phytophthoras infecting woody species and biological characteristics that may affect establishment will be collated from databases and national surveys conducted in a broad range of countries. Models will identify those species occurring in locations resembling the UKs climate and ecosystems and those species that are ecologically similar to Phytophthoras that have established in Europe, strengthening the evidence base for inclusion of pathogens in the UK Plant Health Risk Register. We will also look at the pathways of international trade and tourism and the risks of new Phytophthora introductions via these routes, identifying national focus points for biosecurity based on a raised risk that new Phytophthoras will arrive at these locations. Pathway analyses will be used to inform nursery managers and accreditation scheme criteria of the highest risk trade practices. Current practices are increasing the diversity of co-existing Phytophthoras in the environment, yet we have little understanding of the potential for new aggressive Phytophthoras to arise through hybridisation or other mechanisms of genetic exchange when new species meet. Whole genome sequences of Phytophthora species will be examined to determine the extent to which genetic exchange has occurred among Phytophthoras and related organisms, and how this might have enabled these pathogens to adapt on to tree species, change virulence or host range. This work will enhance our fundamental understanding of pathogen evolution.

Japan Aroma Laboratory Co., Japan Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute | Date: 2012-01-04

To develop a means for effectively utilize terpene compounds contained in tree leaves, whereby branches and leaves cut in tree thinning and pruning can be effectively utilized as a resource. For this purpose, provided are a monoterpene component-rich essential oil containing 90% or more of monoterpene components; a method for producing the monoterpene component-rich essential oil which includes subjecting coniferous leaves to microwave steam distillation and collecting a distillate thus obtained; and a method for removing environmental pollutants which includes bringing the monoterpene component-rich essential oil into contact with atmosphere containing the environmental pollutants.

Agency: GTR | Branch: BBSRC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 161.52K | Year: 2014

It has been made clear by examples such as Ash Dieback, that our trees face a serious threat from new diseases and pests. As trees are everywhere and are well-loved parts of our landscape, an important part of our economy and an essential part of our biodiversity, their loss has serious consequences. However, dealing with each new threat as it comes along is difficult, expensive and potentially futile as threats can evolve so much faster than their tree hosts. Also, tree health is not just about a single pest or disease, but about growing trees in the right place, about keeping population sizes up, about ensuring seedlings get a chance to grow and about allowing forests to change as the environment changes. So, in order to find a sustainable long-term strategy for keeping our trees healthy, we need to consider the range of real and potential threats that trees face and try to deal with these together. At the same time, we need to ask what is possible for changing the way we grow trees: how do we use trees now, what do we want from our trees in the future, and how much change are we willing to accept? By finding a middle ground, that brings together the best biological knowledge with a clear understanding of the possible ways to adapt, we can give our trees the best possible chance of withstanding new threats. The most important part of finding a way to do this is bringing together many different groups of people, and different types of knowledge. A lot is known about many of our trees already, but usually this knowledge comes from unlinked, independent studies and rarely do results from one study tell us something about another, even for the same tree species. Much better coordination is needed. To show how this can be done, we aim to use the example of Scots pine, an important native tree species. For Scots pine, we know of several serious threats that are either here or are likely to reach the UK soon. The remaining native Scots pine forests are small and fragmented, but we know that they are adapted to their local environments: so pine trees from one part of the country grow differently than those from another. There are large plantations of Scots pine in many parts of the UK - there is ten times as much planted as remains in the native forests - and these are often at much higher densities than are found in nature, and often alongside plantations of pines from other parts of the world. There is also a strong cultural attachment to the species; in many places pinewoods are being replanted and it is often used as a garden or amenity tree. Our project aims to measure how variable and adaptable are the threats to Scots pine, to test how much variation there is in the tree species in resistance to these threats, and to find ways to get people involved in making healthier pine forests. By doing this we also aim to show how the same thing can be done for any other tree species, and to put in place the tools for getting it done. We will focus on three important threats to Scots pine - Dothistroma needle blight, the pinetree Lappet moth and pine pitch canker. We will bring together a group of scientists - specialists in ecology, tree genetics, forest pathology, plant biochemistry, fungal ecology and evolution and social science - who will work together on the same, carefully chosen pine trees. This work will tell us how much the UK Scots pine population varies and how much it can change from generation to generation; how populations of the threats grow and change; and what can be done to make the pine forests we have more resilient. We will bring in lessons from crop agriculture, where similar problems have been faced for generations, and adapt these for trees and forests, that have much longer lifespans. Finally, by talking to people who work with and use trees, and the general public, we will find ways to use this information to make things change on the ground.

Agency: GTR | Branch: BBSRC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 61.13K | Year: 2014

The UKs forests, woods and trees are under threat from a growing number of pests and diseases. Many of these threats are alien; historically not present in the UK and having been introduced from overseas. Some of these threats may reach the UK naturally i.e. as wind-borne spores from continental Europe; potentially one pathway for introduction of the disease ash die-back. The alternative and probably more common pathway of introduction is via human activity, especially trade; for example moving infected plants (another pathway identified for ash die-back) or through the shipping of goods associated with infested timber (as was the case with the recent introduction of the Asian long-horn beetle into Kent in packaging crates for stone). These cases clearly demonstrate that we need to do more to improve our nations biosecurity and protect our plants and trees; both cultivated and in the wider environment. In order to do this we need better methods for detecting these pests and diseases that allow us to find them earlier and with greater efficiency. By detecting these threats earlier you can minimize the damage they cause, by either preventing an outbreak occurring in the first place or by finding it early and then stopping it from establishing and spreading further. At present we rely on trained inspectors to find these alien pests and pathogens, mainly via visual inspections of imported plants and plant-based products e.g. timber. However, given the volume of inspections required, the finite amount of resource available and the huge practical challenges associated with these inspections, this task is extremely difficult and the efficiency of detection is low. This project is designed to change that situation by providing better methods for detecting tree pests and pathogens; both moving in trade and in the environment. It will look at new technologies for the detecting changes in infected plants; using either sniffer technology to identify differences in the volatile chemicals given off by diseased and healthy plants or imaging techniques that can detect changes beyond the range of human vision. It will also look at developing and designing novel traps for capturing insects and DNA-based detection approaches that look for air- and water-borne pathogens. This will include better approaches for trapping spores and then applying high-throughput sequencing methods that will allow the identification of not only known pathogens but also new ones too. However, developing these new technologies is only part of the challenge. It is also necessary to make sure these new methods are fit-for-purpose and that they work in a way that meets the needs of those enforcing tree health regulations (e.g. government), those upon who those regulation impact (e.g. woodland owners and industry) and the end-users who would be expected to use these new tools (e.g. inspectors in the field). We will also examine what type of end-users could be involved; this could be trained government inspectors (the traditional approach) or alternatives such as those working in the industry, volunteers or even the general public. So looking to see if a so-called citizen science approach could be used for any of these new approaches. It is also important to ensure that these new approaches can be deployed effectively, for example at locations that pose the greatest risk, and in a way that offers the best cost-benefit (i.e. the best balance between cost of using the technology and the improvements it can offer in terms of better pest and disease detection). In order to do this, we will take an interdisciplinary approach; getting experts from many different fields e.g. biology, mathematics, chemistry, engineering, physics, economics and social science, to work together to come up with the best overall solution that works technically, economically and socially.

Agency: GTR | Branch: BBSRC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 133.96K | Year: 2014

British ash trees are threatened by the fungal disease ash dieback, which has already arrived in the UK, and by the emerald ash borer (EAB), a beetle found in the USA and Russia. Scientists are currently seeking to develop ash trees resistant to ash dieback, using genetic information already present in European ash trees. In the longer term, Britain and the World need ash trees that are resistant to both ash dieback and EAB. To achieve this, we may need to study not just in Fraxinus excelsior -- the ash species most common in Britain -- but in the whole ash genus, which consists of about 50 species worldwide. Preliminary studies suggest that some of these species are resistant to one or both of these problems, due to co-evolution. Looking in the whole genus may help us (i) to identify genes in Fraxinus excelsior that can give resistance to these threats, which would otherwise have been hard to find, and (ii) reveal genes in other ash species that give resistance but are not found in Fraxinus excelsior. This consortium is an international team of leaders in research on ash trees, ash dieback, the EAB, ash taxonomy and phylogenetics, ash genomics, tree breeding, phylogenomics and social framings of nature. It is led by Dr Richard Buggs (Queen Mary, University of London) who is currently sequencing a Fraxinus excelsior genome funded by NERC. It will pioneer the application of a new method for finding genes responsible for traits developed by Dr Steve Rossiters group (Queen Mary, University of London), funded by BBSRC, that has not been used before in tree health contexts. This works by building evolutionary trees for thousands of genes in the ash genus, and examining how the patterns of evolution seen in them fit with patterns of susceptibility/resistance to ash dieback and EAB. This evolutionary approach allows us to identify genes or gene variants that may be involved in resistance. For this method to work, we need accurate information about the susceptibility of different ash species to ash dieback and the EAB. Our current knowledge of this is patchy and largely anecdotal, so we need to fill this gap. At the moment we do not even have good data on how susceptible the British ash species, Fraxinus excelsior, is to the EAB. We therefore propose an experiment on susceptibility of ash species to the EAB to be carried out in the USA, in an area where this pest is killing thousands of trees. This will be conducted by Dr Jennifer Koch (US Forest Service), who has years of experience and well developed protocols in testing ash trees for EAB susceptibility, but has not carried out a systematic study of the whole genus. This experiment will be carried out on clones of all ash species currently available in American living collections. A similar experiment will be carried out in the UK, testing the susceptibility of all ash species currently available in British and Irish living collections to ash dieback. This experiment will be led by Dr Steve Lee (Forest Research) who is currently leading a project screening thousands of F. excelsior genotypes for resistance to ash dieback, funded by Defra. This proposal provides a logical extension to that project to include other ash species. Whilst we carry out experimental work to identify genes for pest and pathogen resistance, a social science study will be conducted by Dr Paul Jepson (Oxford University) about how they might be used in a tree health context in a manner that is socially and politically acceptable. Could we develop ash populations resistant to EAB and ash dieback by planting other ash species? By hybrid breeding programes? By genetic modification? This study will seek answers to these questions in a social and political sense. This project will pioneer new methods and approaches to tackling both a fungal pathogen and an invertebrate pest in a widespread tree genus. If successful these approaches can be used to tackle tree health issues in other tree genera.

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