Forest Research to participate in major international project

‘Sentinel’ plants to serve on front line against pests and diseases

News from Forest Research: October 2013

Forest Research is taking part in a major international project to set up a global plant health early warning network of ‘sentinel’ trees and plants, which will be launched in New Zealand this week.

The International Plant Sentinel Network (IPSN) will develop a community of botanic gardens and arboreta around the world that will use ‘sentinel’ plants to provide early warning of new and emerging tree and plant pests and diseases.

Professor Hugh Evans will have an advisory and consulting role on the scientific elements of the project, especially prioritising pests and diseases for surveillance. Coincidentally, Professor Evans is attending the 2nd International Conference on Biological Invasions in Qingdao, China where the value of sentinel plants in improving our knowledge of potential pests and pathogens has been featured in several presentations.

The increasing globalisation of trade in plants and plant material has led to an increase in the introduction and spread of new and economically or environmentally damaging plant pests such as citrus longhorn beetle (Anoplophora chinensis) and diseases such as ash dieback (caused by the fungus Hymenoscyphus pseudoalbidus) and the pathogen Phytophthora ramorum.

The three-year, 400,000 Euro project, which is led by the UK, will address a knowledge gap identified by the UK Government’s Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Expert Taskforce concerning the use of sentinel plants in the UK and abroad to identify unknown risks. The project will monitor European native plants especially planted or already growing in overseas situations, especially in similar climates. By this means, a consortium of scientists led by Britain’s Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera) hopes to gain a valuable insight into pests and diseases which pose the greatest threat of moving around the planet and damaging new areas.

The project is being launched at the 5th Global Botanic Gardens Congress from October 20-25, 2013, hosted by New Zealand’s Dunedin Botanic Garden, within Symposium 3 organised by the Better Border Biosecurity (B3) programme.

More information about the project is available on the BGCI website