Weldon, James

Weldon, James
Start date:
September 2021
Research Topic:
Tree Heath, Ash Dieback
Research pathway:
Research Supervisor:
Dr Jonathan Prior
Supervising school:
Primary funding source:
ESRC Studentship

The UK’s treescape is threatened by several diseases. Whilst this is not a new problem, increased international trade and a changing climate have made outbreaks more common. My research focuses on two diseases: Firstly, Dutch Elm Disease (DED), which killed the majority of mature elm trees in the 1970’s. The second disease is Ash Dieback (ADB), which is projected to kill around 80% of the UK’s ash trees at a cost of £15 billion. I aim to investigate why ash and elm’s loss matters to those involved in DED and ADB-related conservation. Through this investigation, I will explore my central question: What are DED and ADB-related conservation trying to conserve? Are trees being protected as: cultural heritage, a habitat, a rarity and/or a financial asset? I will answer this question by:

1. Highlighting the ways my subjects value ash and elm.

2. Investigating how the threat of a tree’s likely disappearance impacts these values.

I will use a qualitative mixed methods approach to highlight the variety of valuation practices taking place. This will help future environmental management efforts recognise, and therefore protect, the variety values associated with trees. Additionally, it will enable me to critically analyse the objectives of species-based conservation. My research will pay close attention to the role of non-human stakeholders. Specifically, the role they play in the co-creation of the value associated with certain species of tree. I am particularly interested in how ‘ruined’ treescapes marked by the impending absence, and spectral presence, of certain species of tree are conceptualised.