The main aim of the research programme is to develop scientifically verifiable methods to enable the current high levels of uncertainty in Pest Risk Analysis (PRA) to be reduced, thus giving confidence in proposing quarantine measures that are justifiable and minimise recourse to the Precautionary Principle.

Thus, the research programme addresses the twin objectives of:

  • Improving the process of PRA within the Plant Health arena for the EU as a whole and
  • Developing knowledge-based pest management strategies consequent on improved PRA methodology.

The combined experimental and observational approach proposed by this project is based on the unique opportunity that has arisen with the discovery, in 1999, of B. xylophilus in Portugal. This will enable the partnership in this proposal to address known weaknesses in PRA technology arising from the lack of direct knowledge of the ecological and socio-economic aspects of the introduction of a new pest. Integration of more traditional techniques of survey and gathering of biological information with new techniques such as molecular identification, Geographic Information Systems and use of ecological models provides an approach that will enhance the prospects of producing the key deliverables from this proposal.

Understanding the biology of the pest association

The building blocks of the PRA approach that is central to this research programme are reliable quantitative data on the pest organisms Bursaphelenchus xylophilus and its vectors Monochamus spp. Surveys and detailed ecological studies will be critical components of the work and will take maximum advantage of the new pest association in Portugal. An understanding of the inter-relationships between the nematode, its vectors and the host tree is, therefore, essential to the study.

Schematic representation of the inter-relationships between pine wood nematode, Bursaphelenchus xylophilus, and its vectors in the genus Monochamus

Schematic representation of the inter-relationships between pinewood nematode, Bursaphelenchus xylophilus, and its vectors in the genus Monochamus

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