Purpose of the PERMIT Cost Action

The threat from Invasive Alien Species (IAS)

The introduction of species beyond their natural ranges has risen dramatically and at an accelerating rate over the past 50 years, due to increased transport, trade, travel and tourism on a global scale. Such PATHWAYS provide opportunities for transport of species across bio-geographic barriers that would otherwise prevent their movement.

IAS are species introduced outside their natural habitats where they may invade, establish, out-compete native species and disrupt ecosystem services. Biological invasions operate globally and are considered to be the second cause of biodiversity loss after direct habitat destruction. They are predicted to become the major engines of adverse ecological change in the future because of their increased spread and establishment.In addition to threats to biodiversity and ecosystem services, the direct costs of IAS in relation to crop and amenity losses are immense.

Therefore, the planning of more effective strategies to deal with biological invasions is a global conservation and socio-economic priority, requiring improved actions at national and international levels based on proactive rather than reactive approaches.

Fundamental to maintaining biosecurity is improving our understanding of the pathways by which pests are moved internationally and, arising from this improved knowledge, development and implementation of enhanced pathway management to reduce or eliminate pest risks.

Fundamentally, keeping pests out is far more effective than attempting to eradicate or contain them after they have established in a new location.

The basis for developing improved methods for reducing pest movement along PATHWAYS is the sharing of knowledge, its synthesis through use of international expertise and, as key outputs, the development of new proposals and decision support for ENHANCED PATHWAY MANAGEMENT. Such a knowledge-based initiative is the fundamental driver of the PERMIT COST Action, where the emphasis is on developing and enhancing networks and by building and synergising capacity between existing and new research groups. Synthesis of state-of-the-art knowledge, including identification of gaps in that knowledge, will be provided by hard-copy, electronic and workshop outputs from this COST Action.

Context and approach

Although there are a range of EU and international projects and research initiatives related to specific phytosanitary threats, there is surprisingly little coordinated action or exchange of experiences and information on the biological and physical attributes of pathways for movement of pests globally. Some initiatives have commenced (e.g. the IUFRO Alien Invasive Species and International Trade Unit has a small working group on Plants for Planting as a Pathway) but they tend not to have a funding basis that allows frequent and structured interaction with relevant scientists, practitioners and stakeholders. PERMIT provides this structured network to enhance knowledge exchange, sharing and synthesis.

  • PERMIT focuses on reducing the potential threats from exotic pests through promoting enhanced pathway management. It does this through inter-related and sequential objectives. The general approach is analysis and shared experiences of the principal pathways for movement of forest and woodland pests, leading to an appraisal of potential generic procedures that could be applied to pathway management ultimately leading to a “manage once, remove many” approach to maximise pest reduction.
  • PERMIT recognises that the nature of international trade is evolving and increasing in scale. For example, in recent years, the demand for, and delivery of, live Plants for Planting including ornamental and forest/woodland trees has increased enormously (the value of all trade in imported live plants to the EU Member States was €1,434 Billion in 2007). This relatively new, high risk, pathway adds to those, such as wood products, wood packaging, etc, already recognised as presenting phytosanitary risks.
  • Each pathway has a biological ‘carrying capacity’ that reflects the range of pests that could be associated with the pathway at origin. When combined with predictions that, because of climate change, many pests will increase in severity and in their capacity to exploit host plants in new locations, the need for increased knowledge exchange and analysis is fundamental to anticipating new problems and for early development of solutions to combat any increased threats.
  • PERMIT, therefore, provides an interdisciplinary and interactive forum, based around scientists, phytosanitary authorities, wider stakeholders and end-users from a range of COST and non-COST countries. It provides a structured means of addressing the wider biological characteristics of pathways of global pest movement and will recommend generic processes for maximal pathway risk reduction, thus extending beyond, but complementary to, the current list-based emphasis in phytosanitary procedures. Further benefits will arise from:
    • Enhanced protection of the European forest and woodland estate leading to increased financial and amenity values.
    • Improved and more secure flow of goods internationally, supporting global trade, whilst contributing to reduced phytosanitary risk.