Caring for our forests globally
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Increasing Sustainability of European Forests (ISEFOR)

isefor-medEuropean forests are of immense importance to people, the environment and the economy. They provide products including timber, food, medicines; protection including water catchment protection, erosion prevention, protection from avalanches and landslides; and recreational facilities and areas of natural beauty. Some European forests, such as those in the Mediterranean basin, are biodiversity hotspots.

European forests, however, are under unprecedented threat from three sources:

  • Rapid climate change, which places ecosystems under stress. The dominant vegetation in the forests comprises many long-lived tree species. These trees have little ability to adapt to environmental changes occurring over the next few decades, making the forest ecosystem vulnerable.
  • Increased global trade, population mobility, and tourism which are leading to an escalation in the numbers of alien pests and pathogens intercepted at ports of entry to Europe. These interceptions are only a small proportion of the alien organisms arriving within the EU from other continents, and which are escaping into natural and plantation forest ecosystems.
  • Interactions between climate change and pests and pathogens (indigenous as well as alien) which will have serious impacts on forest trees' susceptibility to attack. Permanent establishment of many alien pathogens and pests throughout Europe is likely to increase with climate change. A large number of novel, unprecedented forest health problems are likely to occur in the future.

Addressing the Challenges to European Forests

ISEFOR addressed the problems arising from: (1) climate change impacts on forest ecosystem vitality; (2) increasing threats from alien invasive pests and pathogens; and (3) changing threats from indigenous pests and pathogens, or alien species already established in Europe. ISEFOR research focused on:

  • Defining the threats to European forest ecosystems, based on current knowledge of pests and pathogens known to be potentially invasive, and the host plants attacked by these organisms
  • Developing molecular techniques for detection and diagnosis of potentially problematic alien organisms at ports of entry, and along pathways of dispersal in collaboration with PRATIQUE and QBOL
  • Critically analysing the plant nursery trade to develop a quantified approach to pest risk assessment and determine if post-entry quarantine for commodities within this pathway provides an effective step for reducing risks linked to cryptic or dormant pest organisms
  • Developing software to allow modelling of the probabilities of invasion, spread and impact of alien pathogens under climate change conditions.

The Outcomes

  • Databases of the alien invasive pests and pathogens threatening European forest productivity, and an information set on the biology and epidemiology of these organisms
  • Improved abilities to detect and diagnose alien invasive pests and pathogens at points of entry, at strategic points along pathways of invasion and in affected trees, based on state-of-the-art molecular techniques
  • Detailed information on the major pathway for regional, national and international spread of potentially invasive pests and pathogens
  • Modelling software enabling potential and likely spread and impacts of alien invasive pests and pathogens in European forests within different climatic zones to be estimated
  • Models to predict the potential effects of climate change on the invasive potentials and impacts of alien pests and pathogens
  • Production of risk maps for key potentially invasive pests and pathogens in European forests under various climate change scenarios.

Project Partners