holistic management of emerging forest pests and diseases

The Project

Forests are the highest ranked land cover type in Europe. Numbering at around 40% of the total land area, they provide numerous goods and services of benefit to people. These include, not only marketed products such as wood, but also ecosystem services of great value from an ecological, political, social and cultural perspective. Among the latter are water resource management, preservation of biodiversity, climate change mitigation, recreation and health benefits, cultural heritage and protection from soil erosion.

In the last decades, a growing list of introduced non-native pests and pathogens (PnPs) have been causing dramatic losses to European trees and forests. Most of these devastating PnPs, e.g. chestnut blight, ash dieback, Asian long-horned beetle and western conifer seed bug, were harmless or even unknown in their region of origin. The exponential rates of introduction and establishment of non-native PnPs in Europe are clearly linked to increasing global trade.

 


 

Objectives:

  • At a scientific level, HOMED will:
    • Improve the understanding of species traits and population demographic features that drive forest PnPs emergence or invasion
    • Create a new generation of semi-mechanistic models to provide quantitative and spatialized predictions on PnPs introduction, establishment and spread
    • Develop a generic framework for economic assessment of PnPs risk mitigation options
    • Enhance knowledge on natural regulation of invasive tree or forest PnPs, e.g. control by native natural enemies
    • Identify key criteria and provide benchmarks for the selection of best options for eradication, containment and control of emerging or invasive PnPs
  • At a technological level, HOMED will:
    • Develop a generic method based on next generation sequencing (NGS) data to rapidly identify genetic markers for any new threatening PnPs species
    • Create new devices for ground detection and surveillance, e.g. multi-sensors, new trapping systems, sentinel nurseries and plantations
    • Develop an artificial intelligence tool to analyse images of PnPs symptoms on trees sent by professionals and citizens through a smartphone application
    • Conduct remote sensing strategies, methods and tools (e.g. unmanned aerial vehicles) for early detection, surveillance and delimitation of affected areas by PnPs
    • Develop integrated PnPs eradication strategies based on environmentally friendly control methods like mating disruption and push & pull measures
    • Design advanced classical and conservation biological control methods for the management of emerging and invasive PnPs populations
    • Establish a ‘see and spray’ method of PnPs control at an individual tree level by combining multi-sensors, algorithms of decision making and sprayers of biopesticides
  • At a risk management level, HOMED will:
    • Co-design with forest actors, tools, guidelines and recommendations for the prevention, detection, diagnosis, eradication and control of new PnPs
    • Develop a generic Decision Support System, illustrated with representative model case studies, aimed at forest stakeholders to make the most appropriate response during the invasion and emergence processes, based on critical indicators and risk analysis
    • Create a multi-criteria decision support web interface for choosing the best options for the eradication, containment or control of emerging and invasive PnPs

 


 

Work packages:

-WP1: Forest stakeholder engagement

The objective of WP1 is to organise the multi-actor approach during the development and management of the project. More specifically, WP1 will organise a bi-directional flow of information between stakeholders and scientists, in order to better identify the needs of actors in charge of tree and forest protection against emerging and invasive biotic threats. The work package will evaluate the new tools developed by the project to meet these needs, based on cost-effectiveness criteria.

+WP2: Comprehensive risk analysis

+WP3: Prevention detection tools

+WP4: Surveillance delimitation tools

+WP5: Eradication containment tools

+WP6: Control tools

+WP7: Dissemination

+WP8: Project management