Ash dieback and other tree pests and pathogens: dispersed risk events and the Social Amplification of Risk Framework

John Fellenor, Julie Barnett, Clive Potter, Julie Urquhart, John D. Mumford, Christopher P. Quine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (SciVal)
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It is widely acknowledged within the risk literature that the mass media play a pivotal role in shaping information about risk events for audiences. While some risk events reflect occurrences specific to particular times and locations, other risk events are more difficult to temporally and spatially situate as they are dispersed across years or months and are not constrained to particular geographic locations. Studies examining the relationship between the social amplification or attenuation of risks and their framing in the media have tended to focus on the former type of event. In this paper, we explore the social amplification of risk in relation to ash dieback disease (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus), a tree health issue that attracted intense media attention in the United Kingdom in 2012, and characterise what we designate as a dispersed risk event. Drawing on the influential Social Amplification of Risk Framework (SARF), we present a frame analysis of UK national newspaper articles to assess the connection between media coverage of dieback and risk amplification, and the extent to which dieback coverage drew on other tree health issues and objects of media attention. Focusing particularly on the blame frame around dieback, the paper considers the implications of conceptualising dispersed risk events for the SARF and its amplification metaphor. Moreover, given that risk events such as dieback are often associated with policy shifts, we suggest that there is value for risk communicators and policymakers in broadening their focus to incorporate more of the ‘history’ of risk events in order to anticipate likely anchors of public and media attention.Abbreviations: BSE: bovine spongiform encephalopathy; Defra: Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; DED: Dutch elm disease; EAB: Emerald ash borer; EU: European Union; FMD: foot and mouth disease; FC: Forestry Commission; GSBB : Great spruce bark beetle; HCLM: Horse chestnut leaf miner; HTA: Horticultural Trades Association; OPM: Oak processionary moth; SARF: Social Amplification of Risk Framework; TPP: tree pests and pathogens.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1459-1478
JournalJournal of Risk Research
Issue number12
Early online date12 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2 Dec 2019


  • ash dieback
  • frame analysis
  • media
  • risk event
  • Social Amplification of Risk Framework

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Engineering(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Strategy and Management


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