Objectives of the COST Action
The aims of the Action are to 1) establish a network of scientists and regulators in countries where sentinel nurseries with trees grown from seed could be established or where there are botanical gardens, arboreta or other plantations with foreign tree species, 2) suggest common protocols for the monitoring and identification of pests and 3) explore ways to regulate the establishment of such nurseries as well as the use of data collected through them.
To achieve these aims, the Action will develop a network of researchers and representatives of NPPOs, in particular PRA specialists. Because of the variety of targeted organisms and the diversity of methods and tools required for the monitoring and taxonomic identification of IAS on trees, the development of protocols will involve ecologists, taxonomists and molecular biologists, including both entomologists and pathologists. The involvement of both researchers with experience in monitoring the occurrence and impact of IAS and officials who carry out PRA based on the information generated by researchers and who can allow the import and use of seeds for scientific purposes, as well as the use of potentially sensitive data gathered in such plantings, will contribute significantly to the development of an effective network of nurseries as early warning systems against alien tree pests. A COST Action with such interdisciplinary, integrative and highly international character seems the most appropriate approach to streamline the development of an effective early warning system that relies on international collaboration and exchange of information between researchers and the regulatory community.
Effective early warning systems, and thus PRA, require knowledge of 1) the harmful organisms that are associated with imported plants in the exporting country, and 2) the potential implication of attack on native species by harmful organisms in the importing country. These important requirements are often unfulfilled. In part, because plant health regulations are based on regulated organisms (ca. 200 taxa in the EU), little information is available about other organisms associated with the imported plants and these other organisms may or may not appear harmful in the exporting country. Moreover, no collated information about the economic and environmental importance and the vulnerability of native tree species in Europe is readily available, making an assessment of the potential impacts of attack by new IAS more difficult and timeconsuming.
The Action therefore has three main Objectives:
1) to create lists of the most important or vulnerable native tree species that should be targeted using sentinel nurseries. Outcome: decision support for the planting design of sentinel nurseries and support for PRA experts for the assessment of potential impacts of new harmful organisms that could be introduced through trade;
2) to develop standardised monitoring protocols to collect data required for preparing appropriate and reliable risk assessments. Outcome: harmonised nursery design, data collection and identification for a range of organisms based on direct observation and symptoms, as well as morphological and molecular techniques;
3) to work with representatives of NPPOs towards a regulatory basis for the use of the data collected in sentinel nurseries. Outcome: streamlined exchange of knowledge between researchers and NPPOs about the presence of potentially harmful organisms, based on national and international standards.