New Research Raises Concerns Over Tree Pests and Diseases

Southampton, UK (November 15, 2013) – New research published in the journal Science finds that the number of pests and disease outbreaks in trees and forests across the world is increasing. The findings suggest growing concerns that globalization—specifically high volumes and new forms of trade—may increase the risk of disease spreading as well as opportunities for genetic reassortment which can increase the ability of an organism to cause disease. The researchers call for new approaches to pest and disease management.

tree pest damageTrees and forests provide a wide variety of ecosystem services such as carbon sequester and storage, reducing flood risk and leisure use.

In “The consequences of Tree Pests and Diseases for Ecosystem Services” researchers from the universities of Southampton, Cambridge, Oxford and St Andrews say that new approaches to pest and disease management are needed that take into account these multiple services and the different stakeholders they benefit, as well as the likelihood of greater threats in the future resulting from globalization and climate change.

Identifying all species that may become pests, however, will be impossible and researchers stress the importance of risk management at “pathways of introduction,” especially where modern trade practices provide potential new routes of entry for pests and pathogens. They argue that science-based policy and practice can prevent the introduction of new diseases and improve recovery and ongoing management, this includes the breeding of resistant trees and development of effective bio-control systems.

Researchers also examined the difficulties of maintaining tree health and considered the consequences of pests and diseases for the full range of ecosystem services provided by trees. The term “pest” and “disease” was used to describe all pathogens and small-to medium-size insect herbivores that — by causing tree damage and death — disrupt the ecosystem services provided by trees.

Many of the benefits from woodlands and forests, for example carbon storage, maintenance of biodiversity and recreational use, are uncosted and enjoyed by a range of stakeholders. This raises difficult questions about who should be responsible for measures to protect tree health.

Source: Rising concerns over tree pests and disease,” Science