Climate changes open new areas to species so far limited in their expansion by climatic barriers. They may also affect host susceptibility to native pests and pathogens, and increase the risk of outbreaks or epidemics. In addition to climatic changes, the expansion of international trade also favours global re-distribution of diseases and pests. We presently focus primarily on biological invasions, range expansion or host shifts in insects, in particular scolytines such as Dendroctonus micans, Ips typographus and Trypodendron spp. Starting in 2013, we also monitor the longhorns Monochamus spp. in Belgium, as they are potential vectors of the pine wood nematode, Bursaphelenchus xylophilus, presently established in Portugal and reported several times in Spain.
MACROREG (Belgian Federal Public Service Public Health, Foodchain Security and Environment, 2009 - 2012): Developing a risk analysis methodology for the registration of biological control agents (macro-organisms).
The project is coordinated by Prof. Patrick De Clerck (Gent University - UGent) and comprises three partners: UGent, ULB and ILVO (Institute for Agricultural and Fisheries Research, Prof Maurice Moens). It aims at developing a methodology for risk analysis in view of a possible future registration process in Belgium for invertebrate natural enemies, mostly exotic species.
A first workpackage consists in an inventory of all macro-organisms (nematodes, insects, mites) used for biological control and presently
available on the Belgian market.
The following and major workpackage consists in the development of a risk-analysis methodology, and includes the correct identification of the organisms (with a concern for close species and for intraspecific variability), their capacity to establish in a new environment, their capacity to spread and their potential impact on non-target species.
Several model species will be selected, based on the results of workpackage 1, and corresponding to the expertise of the project's partners: two predatory insects, one predatory mite, one parasitoid wasp and one entomopathogenic nematode.
Finally, a set of emergency measures will be proposed for potential cases of unexpected escape and propagation of the biocontrol agents.
ISEFOR (FP7): Increasing Sustainability of European Forests: Modelling for Security Against Invasive Pests and Pathogens under Climate Change
The project is coordinated by Prof. Stephen Woodward (University of Aberdeen) and comprises seventeen partners in the EU, Russia, China and the US.
ISEFOR will focus on a number of highly significant quarantine pests and pathogens from the EPPO A1 and A2 lists, representing the different ecological groups of invasive species. For the insects, choices were based on both feeding guild (wood borer, phloem-feeder, defoliator, seed feeder, leaf miner and gall- maker), type and family of hosts (trees vs. shrubs; conifers vs. broad-leaved species) and taxonomy. For the pathogens, a wide range of biological attributes was chosen, including parallels with ‘feeding guilds’ (for the insects (pathogens causing root, shoot, canker, foliage and wilt diseases) and including bacteria, fungi, oomycetes and nematodes.
In order to advance the state of the art in this area and address the problems that will arise 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 will focus on the following factors:
- Defining the types of threats likely to impact on European forest ecosystems, based on current knowledge of the pest and pathogen organisms known as potentially invasive, and the host genera attacked by these organisms;
- The development, in conjunction with other EU-funded projects on parallel themes (e.g. PRATIQUE; QBOL), of state-of-the-art molecular systems for the detection and diagnosis of potentially problematic organisms at ports of entry, and along pathways of dispersal;
- To critically analyse plant nursery trade, the probable major pathway for dispersal of alien pests and pathogens, the plant nursery trade, so that a quantified approach may be used to draw up generic pest risk assessments for this pathway, propose an ISPM for plants for planting, 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;
- Using the data obtained in the work outlined above to develop modelling software allowing the accurate prediction of the spread and impacts of alien pathogens which may become invasive under climate change conditions.
Moreover, the project includes substantial dissemination plans for the transfer of knowledge and techniques developed to the end-user community. It is expected that in the short term, the work will provide the plant health surveillance community with highly valuable and relevant diagnostic tools, readily useful for both fundamental and applied aspects of these important alien threats. This project will provide significant information on the potential of known quarantine organisms to cause damage in European forest ecosystems under climate change scenarios, and hence give the quarantine authorities additional ammunition for tackling increasing risks and threats from alien pests and pathogens. In addition, we expect to identify further potentially invasive pests and pathogens threatening the functioning of European forest ecosystems.Contact: J.-C. Grégoire
ALIEN ALERT: Horizon scanning for new pests and invasive species in Belgium and neighbouring areas (Belgian Federal Science Policy Office (BelSPO) - 2012 - 2013)
ALIEN ALERT aims to develop, calibrate and validate an integrated quick screening tool to identify harmful non-native organisms that may be introduced and establish in Belgium and neighbouring areas in the coming years. It will provide a strong scientific background to set up a Belgian early warning system that would help federal and regional authorities to manage adequately emergent biological risks.
ALIEN ALERT will address the following issues:
- to develop a methodology to assess the likelihood of establishment of non-native organisms in Belgium and neighbouring areas under current and future climatic conditions (including the identification of potential donor areas);
- to develop criteria and techniques to assess the spread and the different impact types of pests and invasive species;
- to build an integrated quick screening tool to allow organism prioritisation and categorisation based on previous criteria;
- to validate this protocol by comparing outcomes against known hazards and those of other risk assessment schemes;
- to improve and test the repeatability of this protocol with a panel of international experts;
- to disseminate the results of the project to potential users.
MONOCHAMUS (Belgian Federal Public Service Public Health, Foodchain Security and Environment, 2013 - 2015): A study of the Monochamus spp. populations present in Belgium in order to assess their capacity to propagate the pine wood nematode, and to develop preventive control methods.
This project is coordinated by LUBIES and also involves ILVO (Institute for Agricultural and Fisheries Research, Drs. Nicole Viaene, Hans Casteels and Nick Berkvens). It will develop five main approaches:
- The deployment of a country-wide trapping network based on the trap and lure technologies previously developed within the EU projects PHRAME and REPHRAME;
- the establishment of a "public awareness" network to increase public monitoring of invasive pests and diseases;
- the development and testing of procedures to collect, identify and count the insect caught in the traps and to extract and identify the nematodes possibly vectored by these insects;
- based on the previous points, the development of a global assessment of the phytosanitary status of the Monochamus spp. native to Belgium and of the risks represented by exotic Monochamus species;
- the development of a yearly sampling plan and of emergency contingency measures that could be used by the Belgian authorities.