Increasing sustainability of European forests: Modelling for security against invasive pests and pathogens under climate change
ISEFOR is a consortium of researchers funded by the European Union Seventh Framework Programme FP7 2007-2013 (KBBE 2009-3) under grant agreement 245268. ISEFOR is coordinated by Dr. Steve Woodward from the University of Aberdeen and is administered by Dr Colette Jones.
Ferns in a Swedish forest. Photo: Jonàs Oliva.
European forests are of immense importance to people, the environment and the economy. They provide timber, biodiversity, water catchment protection, mushrooms, medicine, beauty, protection against avalanche, flooding and landslides and many other benefits. Some European forests are hot spots of biodiversity, such as those in the Mediterranean basin.
European forests, however, are under unprecedented threat from three factors:
- Rapid climate change, which places ecosystems under stress. The dominant vegetation in the forests comprises many long-lived tree species. These trees have little ability to adapt to environmental changes occurring over the next few decades, making the forest ecosystem vulnerable.
- Increased global trade, population mobility and tourism are leading to an escalation in the numbers of alien pests and pathogens intercepted at ports of entry to Europe. These interceptions are only a small proportion of the alien organisms arriving within the EU from other continents, and escapes into natural and plantation forest ecosystems are occurring.
- Interactions between climate change and pests and pathogens (indigenous as well as alien) will have serious impacts on forest trees' susceptibility to attack. Permanent establishment of many alien pathogens and pests throughout Europe is likely to increase with climate change. A large number of novel, unprecedented forest health problems are likely to occur in the future
ISEFOR addresses the problems that will arise from: (1) climate change impacts on forest ecosystem vitality; (2) increasing threats from alien invasive pests and pathogens; and (3) changing threats from indigenous pests and pathogens, or alien species already established in Europe. ISEFOR research focuses on:
- Defining the threats to European forest ecosystems, based on current knowledge of the pest and pathogens known as potentially invasive, and the host plants attacked by these organisms;
- Developing molecular techniques for detection and diagnosis of potentially problematic alien organisms at ports of entry, and along pathways of dispersal in collaboration with PRATIQUE and QBOL;
- Critically analysing the plant nursery trade, to develop a quantified approach to pest risk assessment and determine if post-entry quarantine for commodities within this pathway provides an effective step for reducing risks linked to cryptic or dormant pest organisms;
- Developing software to allow modelling of the probabilities of invasion, spread and impact of alien pathogens under climate change conditions.
ISEFOR research will provide, in the short term, valuable and relevant diagnostic tools for the plant health surveillance community.
ISEFOR will also provide significant information on the potential of known quarantine organisms to cause damage in European forest ecosystems under climate change scenarios. This new information will assist quarantine authorities tackling the risks and threats from alien pests and pathogens.
In addition, we expect to identify invasive pests and pathogens that are currently unknown as threats to European forest ecosystems.