Traded forest tree seeds pose a great risk of introducing harmful pests, new research shows

Photo Credti: CABI/Iva Franić

By Center for Agriculture and Bioscience International

CABI has led an international team of scientists who strongly suggest that the global trade of forest tree seeds is not as safe as previously believed, with insect pests and fungal pathogens posing a great risk to trees and forest ecosystems worldwide.

Non-native insect pests and fungal pathogens present one of the major threats to trees and forest ecosystems globally, with the potential to cause significant ecological changes and economic losses.

The Asian emerald ash borer, for example, causes large-scale death of ash trees in North America, is also present in Western Russia, and is, therefore, threatening native ash species in Europe. Similarly, the fungal pathogen Cryphonectria parasitica virtually eliminated the native American chestnut from North American forests in the early 20th Century, leading to significant changes in the forest species composition.

Iva Franić, Dr René Eschen and Dr Marc Kenis, along with colleagues from, among other institutions, the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest Snow and Landscape Research WSL, conducted the first study that simultaneously assessed insects and fungi associated with any type of plants for planting.

In the paper, published in Ecological Applications, the scientists argue that the high infestation rates of seed lots of some tree species is ‘alarming’ and highlight the need to reconsider phytosanitary measures in trading tree seeds.

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