Purpose of the DIAROD COST Action

The threat of Dothistroma needle blight (DNB)

DNB is a fungal disease of conifers which is increasing in geographic and host range throughout Europe, attacking trees in both plantation and natural forests, causing significant economic losses, and threatening pine ecosystems and biodiversity.  It kills foliage, thus reducing tree growth and vigour, and in some situations results in widespread tree death.  In recent years, DNB has grown in severity in parts of Europe from a low priority disease to a serious economic problem.

DIAROD will be a formalisation of an existing informal network of researchers, the International Dothistroma Alliance (IDA).  Concern, prompted by the outbreaks of DNB in Canada and Europe, led to the formation of the IDA in 2006.  This Alliance comprises over 40 scientists from 18 countries, predominantly from Europe, but also with representation from Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and the USA, all of whom are presently dealing with the impacts of the disease. The first meeting of the IDA was held in Canada (2006), followed by meetings in Austria and the Czech Republic (2008), the UK (2009),  Serbia (2010) and Finland (2011).

At the 2009 meeting a research strategy was developed to combat DNB, focussing on the risk it poses, in order to gain a better understanding of pathogen invasion, spread and increased prevalence. DIAROD plans to progress this research strategy through continued and formalised cooperation between DNB researchers. DIAROD aims to address issues surrounding risk and invasiveness to help formulate management and control strategies, and increase our understanding and control of future pest and pathogen outbreaks.  This will benefit policy makers and regulators who are facing these issues with increasing frequency, and provide evidence based research to inform forest management decisions.

DIAROD allows researchers to exchange and compare information, identify and co-ordinate research direction to avoid unnecessary repetition, and disseminate information to a wide range of audiences.  A key feature of DIAROD is the involvement of countries outside the normal COST membership. As stated above, DNB, pest invasiveness, and increasing pest prevalence are not unique to Europe. The inclusion of researchers from outside Europe will strengthen the programme and facilitate its worldwide implementation.  Furthermore, other European countries that are also potentially at risk from DNB are also invited into the DIAROD Action. 

Context and approach

The objective of DIAROD is to provide a synchronised approach to research and dissemination to gain greater understanding of the drivers behind the upsurge of DNB across Europe, including its invasiveness and the risk associated with the changing behaviour of this disease.  A multitude of driving factors may be involved including new incursions, changes in pathogen virulence, climate change, increased host availability and silvicultural practices.  In answering these questions a range of research methods needs to be utilised including traditional methods such as monitoring and silvicultural manipulation, but also the use and development of modern and novel molecular tools. Understanding the drivers behind the recent disease outbreaks, thus allowing the development of management tools, will help to reduce economic, ecological and social losses arising from DNB.  In addition it will enable countries to be better prepared to manage current and future outbreaks of pests and diseases that will inevitably threaten natural and plantation forests throughout Europe, and potentially provide insights into past pest and disease outbreaks.
As pests and diseases do not recognise country boundaries, co-ordination of research and exchange of knowledge in Europe and elsewhere is required.  DIAROD will build on the strong foundations established by the IDA, allowing the experiences and knowledge of DNB researchers to be shared, whilst encouraging continued research collaboration to tackle the issue on an international as opposed to a purely national scale.  Results from this action will benefit a range of stakeholders and interested parties including policy makers, regulators, land owners, land managers and scientists.