Ash Dieback/Chalara: Consolidating Evidence on Biodiversity Impacts

11 December 2012

 

Background

Ash dieback is a new threat to the UK’s landscape and ecology, and the exact scope and impact are unknown.  Existing information about the species and ecosystem processes associated with Ash can help us to understand and respond sensibly to the threats, but it needs to be identified, tracked down, collated and analysed for forecasting and policy-making based on good evidence.  

A number of statutory agencies, led by JNCC, have formed a partnership to pool money to fund priority research this financial year.  They are:

  • JNCC
  • Countryside Council for Wales
  • Forestry Commission
  • Natural England
  • Northern Ireland Environment Agency
  • Scottish Natural Heritage
  • Defra

 

Aim of this notice

It is a simplified request for expressions of interest.  The research must be carried out and completed by 31 March 2013, and we know that it will be challenging for contractors to mobilise their resources in this short time.  The aim of this notice is to give relevant contractors a ‘heads up’, so they know that this opportunity is coming and can register their interest.  It will also help us to check what capacity exists, and streamline the tendering process so that we invite as many relevant contractors as we can.

Please bring this notice to the attention of possible contractors.

 

Aims of the research

  • We will have information to forecast the effect of the disease on species and ecosystems across UK
  • We will have information to forecast the effect of different strategies for managing the disease in different parts of the UK
  • Information about possible impacts will be available to inform policy and decision-making
  • Information will feed in to related studies, which will come later

 

Research questions

The research will focus on four, related, broad questions.  The first two questions are likely to be bundled together into a single contract, leading to a total of three contracts.

Question 1: What species depend on, or are associated with, Ash trees in whole or in part, and how does this compare to other tree species?  Includes: What species might become threatened that depend on ash, in particular species that are currently considered of principal conservation importance?  Includes known details about the role of Ash in each species’ life-cycle.

Question 2: covers the ecological functions of Ash, and what would happen to these if Ash declines.  It includes consideration of associated ground flora and ecological processes.  Questions which would be answered as part of question 2 include:

  • Which tree species could emerge to provide similar ecological functions, and would these be the same throughout the UK?
  • What tree species might provide comparable habitats?
  • What tree species would spread naturally within woodlands or the landscape to fill the gaps, and what would be the likely change in community that would result?
  • Are there ecological functions that cannot be replaced by other species?
  • What are the particular problems and impacts that result from the loss of a complete cohort of Ash trees?

Question 3: what is the effect of general tree health on ability to withstand infection, and how do other pressures (eg grazing by ungulates, air pollution, root disturbance) which affect tree health and regeneration, modify the impact of the disease?  Assessment of opportunities to mitigate the impact of the disease by managing such pressures.

Question 4: what are the long term monitoring needs for biodiversity impacts?

 

Technical questions

If you technical / scientific questions about this piece of work please address them to:

 

Next steps

  • We are working on the detailed specifications, and plan to invite potential contractors to tender early January.
  • Funding for this work is expected to be in the range of £175 - £225k, and envisage that Questions 1 and 2 together will account for two thirds to three quarters of the total.
  • Expression of Interest (EOIs) should be submitted by Thursday 20 December 2012 13:00 hours. EOIs should included the following information. A named contact, with contact details, including email address for the invitation to tender
  • Brief evidence of your capacity to do the research (no more than one side of A4)– e.g. a few examples of similar projects you have carried out, what specialisms are available from your organisation, availability of suitable staff
  • Responses to be sent electronically to . Note technical questions should be directed to: