Developing a partnership model for tree health and resilience: the example of canker stain of plane
Many new diseases threaten trees in Britain today. The risks to our tree populations are documented, and as with Chalara dieback of ash (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus) the potential biological, ecological, economic, landscape and social impacts may be profound. Therefore, governmental support is required to invest in studying the science of tree diseases, pathogen life cycles, host response and epidemiology, so that the tree sector can engage positively and public awareness can be drafted in as a front line of defence. Biosecurity risk management, which largely focuses on controlling the pathways of pathogen introduction, should aim to control those pathways most likely to carry high-risk pathogens that will have a large impact upon important populations of UK trees.
We consider the case of canker stain of plane (CSP) (Ceratocystis platani), a lethal EU Directive 2000/29/EC Quarantine parasite pathogen that, while present in Europe since the 1940s with a strong Mediterranean foothold, today presents an emerging risk to the UK’s plane trees. The extent of the risk is such that the London Tree Officers’ Association has issued a biosecurity position statement drawing attention to the risk of infection, decline and mortality to the capital’s London plane tree population.
A good understanding of science, pathogen epidemiology and identification, asymptomatic colonisation and false symptomatology are fundamental if we are to develop early warning systems for alien tree diseases such as CSP that pose a real and present danger of establishment in the UK.
Developing cost-effective, high-level training is fundamental to generating this understanding, including acquiring basic skills in pathogen identification, early warning alerts and control systems. An innovative partnership model, based on a philosophy of collaborative scientific enterprise, is presented by Treework Environmental Practice and De Rebus Plantarum, an enterprise spinoff of the University of Padova (Padua). Focused on the example of CSP, it aims to build experience and confidence levels in the tree sector through short, high-impact university-supported workshops for practitioners, consultants and tree managers to develop their ability to identify disease expression and knowledge of false symptoms. This short, sharply-focused specialist training can deliver a sufficient level of competence in practical disease identification to build a defence against early breeches in biosecurity.
Lucio Montecchio is Professor of Forest pathology and Amenity trees pathology at the University of Padova, Italy.
His research has focused mainly on the ecology, epidemiology, survey and low-impact control measures of pathogens.
Also through “De Rebus Plantarum”, an interdisciplinary spinoff of the University of Padova, the current emphasis is on integrated management of emerging pests and diseases.
He is core member for Pest Risk Analysis at the European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization (EPPO), and member of the panel on Forest Quarantine at IPPC/FAO.