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Module DXX-2017:
Forest Health

Module Facts

Run by School of Natural Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 1

Organiser: Dr Lars Markesteijn

Overall aims and purpose

This module aims to familiarise students interested in forest ecosystems and forestry with the forest health problems that have caused and are likely to cause significant environmental, social and economic impact in the UK and globally, whether in commercial plantations or natural forest ecosystems. A series of lectures and supporting field visits will give a general overview of the organisms causing problems, including viruses, bacteria, fungi, fungal like organisms, arthropods and mammals and parasitic plants. The module will follow a classical disease triangle approach whereby interacting factors of plant defence, organismal pathogenicity and environmental factors are considered. In case studies, historical and current problems will be examined and their causes for wide-scale spread and high levels of disease will be explored. The case studies will focus on a number of the newer exotic problems which have impacted on the UK's forests, we will examine the potential reasons for this and consider how these can be overcome and the longer-term outcomes. Distinctions and comparisons will be drawn between the pathogens and pests that have been in the UK forest ecosystems for millennia and newcomers. The in-depth focus of the module will concentrate on both fungal and insect issues and will examine future scenarios for forest health in line with climate change predictions. Some of the course content will focus on policy and social issues, as well as silvicultural practises.

Course content

  1. Forest Health – What is a healthy forest?
  2. Introduction to the problems in the forest: biotic, abiotic and interactions, particularly with climatic factors.
  3. The Disease Triangle – a useful concept when addressing forest health
  4. A systematic view of problems I: Pseudofungi - Phytophthora
  5. A systematic view of problems II: Real fungi - Ascomycota
  6. A systematic view of problems III: Real fungi – Basidiomycota
  7. Insects - The basics
  8. Insects on the move: Global trade and change
  9. Acute Oak Decline: a major threat to UK oak
  10. Policy and social aspects of forest health
  11. Monitoring forest health
  12. Immediate and future (known) threats
  13. Managing for resilience of future (unknown) threats

Assessment Criteria


Grade D- to D+ Have a basic understanding of tree and forest health issues, show a basic knowledge of the conditions and organisms involved in different pest and disease severity


Grade C- to B+ As above but at a higher level of understanding and be able to demonstrate evidence of reading original papers rather than grey literature digests.


Grade A- and above As above but extensive level of knowledge and understanding and evidence of widespread use of both current and historical literature.

Learning outcomes

  1. Critical understanding of the organisms likely to harm trees and their broader significance

  2. Critical understanding of the reasons for spread of, and success of, organisms causing forest health issues

  3. Critical understanding of environmental factors which determine the development of pests and diseases

  4. Critical understanding of different management and control options for long term tree-crops and natural forest ecosystems

  5. General understanding of the likely effects of climate change on forest health

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
REPORT Individual seminar write up 30
INDIVIDUAL PRESENTATION Assessed individual seminar presentations 10
EXAM Written examination 60

Teaching and Learning Strategy


1*3 hour plenary session - workshop. You will use a specific forest health case that you have familiarised yourself with during the lectures and field visits, and will use the 'six thinking hats approach' to forest health problem solving.

Private study

Private and guided self-study.


14 * 1-hour lectures. Lectures will cover the content topics presented earlier and relate to all of the learning outcomes.


6 * 2-hour individual student-led seminars. Individual seminar presentations are assessed, and students are expected to be present at all the sessions (regardless of whether they are presenting in that session or not).


3 * 3-hour field visits.


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Numeracy - Proficiency in using numbers at appropriate levels of accuracy
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Safety-Consciousness - Having an awareness of your immediate environment, and confidence in adhering to health and safety regulations
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team
  • Mentoring - Able to support, help, guide, inspire and/or coach others
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others
  • Leadership - Able to lead and manage, develop action plans and objectives, offer guidance and direction to others, and cope with the related pressures such authority can result in

Subject specific skills

  • Recognize the moral, ethical and social issues relating to the subject.
  • Consider issues from a range of interdisciplinary perspectives.
  • Prepare effective maps, diagrams and visualizations.
  • Engagement with current subject developments and their application.
  • Engage in debate and/or discussion with specialists and non-specialists using appropriate language.


Resource implications for students


Talis Reading list

Reading list

In addition to the above students are led to a number of topic specific links via the Blackboard site and the lectures

Pre- and Co-requisite Modules

Courses including this module