Currently, I am a post-doctoral researcher funded by Forest Research, the Monument Foundation and Woodland Heritage to establish the molecular interactions which underpin bacterial and fungal mediated necrosis of oak tissue, particularly within Acute Oak Decline (AOD) and Chronic Oak Decline (COD). This work is a collaboration between Bangor University and Forest Research (Alice Holt, Surrey).
AOD is a recently described decline-disease affecting oak trees in the United Kingdom. It is caused by a complex pathobiome of interacting bacteria, resulting in degradation and necrosis of bark tissue. This causes ring-barking or ‘girdling’ as nutrients are no longer transported through phloem and sapwood. However, oak trees are resilient and when affected many oaks can repel bacterial pathogens. Furthermore, an oak must first become susceptible to bacterial pathogens through the predisposing factors of decline. Predisposing and contributing factors of decline are biotic and abiotic, including drought and pests such as the buprestid beetle Agrilus biguttatus – an insect found in >90% cases of AOD. The incidence of AOD is increasing as climatic fluctuations increase incidence of drought and other perturbations, weakening the resilience of oaks and subjecting them to increased likelihood of decline-disease.