Tracking a plant disease across Cannock Chase using GISlp

GIS (Geographical Information Systems) is helping to track and treat a plant disease, previously unknown in the United Kingdom, which is infecting and killing bilberry across the northern part of Cannock Chase Country Park.

Bilberry plant showing symptoms of PhytophthoraStaffordshire County Council’s Environment and Countryside team, with help from many volunteers, have been surveying the outbreak of Phytophthora pseudosyringae in the bilberry on Cannock Chase.

This alga-like fungus can cause the rotting of roots of some deciduous trees in Europe, and is associated with the condition known as oak decline.

It is rare in the United Kingdom. Few previous records on the infection of bilberry seem to exist.

Using a mixture of Garmin and Trimble GeoExplorer GPS, staff and volunteers have surveyed all 1,300 hectares of Cannock Chase Country Park.

They have collected over 7,600 records of bilberry and other plant species, for each one detailing if it showed signs of infection.

Using ESRI ArcGIS, this information was used to track and analyse the spread of the disease, create surveying rotas and provide numerous maps to inform the public and stakeholders of the current situation.

The GIS has provided information on slope angles for safe equipment handling as well as mapping the extent of the treated areas for future monitoring.

Screenshot of Phytophthora mapped in ArcGIS

Phytophthora mapped in ArcGIS (view screenshot at full size).

Phytophthora control measure - cutting and burningThe infected areas are being treated with a cutting and burning regime.

More information on the disease on Cannock Chase is available from Staffordshire County Council.

Contact details (plant disease):
Steve Potter
Head of Environment and Countryside
Staffordshire County Council
Tel: 01785 277260

Contact details (GIS):
Shona Frost
Information Systems Group Leader
Staffordshire County Council
T: 01785 277280

Thanks to Shona Frost from Staffordshire County Council for contributing this article.

One Response

  1. There’s an update on the spread of the disease today from the Birmingham Post:

    “It has emerged that 14 new outbreak sites of a deadly fungus have been identified on Cannock Chase in the last two weeks, including some in open heathland for the first time.”

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