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Modelling the spread of tree pests and pathogens in urban forests

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Webb, Cerian R 
Avramidis, Eleftherios 
Castle, Matthew D 
Stutt, Richard OH 
Gilligan, Christopher A 


Understanding the potential dynamics of tree pests and pathogens is a vital component for creating resilient urban treescapes. Epidemiologically relevant features include differences in environmental stress and tree management between street and garden trees, and variation in the potential for human-mediated spread due to intensity of human activity, traffic flow and buildings. We extend a standard spatially explicit raster-based model for pest and pathogen spread by dividing the urban tree population into roadside trees and park/garden trees. We also distinguish between naturally-driven radial spread of pests and pathogens and human-mediated linear spread along roads. The model behaviour is explored using landscape data for tree locations in an exemplar UK town. Two main sources of landscape data were available: commercially collated aerial data, which have high coverage but no information on species; and, an urban tree inventory, with low, non-random, coverage but with some species data. The data were insufficient to impute a species-specific host landscape accurately; however, by combining the two data sources, and applying either random or Matérn cluster point process driven selection of a subset of all trees, we create two sets of potential host landscapes. We find that combining the two mechanisms of dispersal has a non-additive effect, with the enhanced linear dispersal enabling new foci of infection to be established more rapidly than with radial dispersal alone; and clustering of trees by species slows down the expansion of epidemics when compared with random distribution of tree species within known host locations.



Mathematical model, Urban forestry, Tree pests and pathogens, Tree inventories, Dispersal

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Urban Forestry and Urban Greening

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EPSRC (EP/T022159/1)