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International Plant Sentinel Network (IPSN)

Lane, Charles; Barham, Ellie; Richards, Gareth; Evans, Hugh; Starfinger, Uwe; van Valkenburg, Johan

Introduced pests and diseases cause such devastation due, to a great degree, to a lack of natural enemies in their introduced range, and a lack of immunity within their new hosts as they have not previously been exposed to them (Tomoshevitch et al., 2013). The threat from new pests and pathogens is only set to rise as the rate of international trade increases, involving greater numbers of countries and trade routes, creating new pathways for their introduction. Similarly, the change in climate, e.g. increased temperatures and changed rainfall patterns, creates new habitats in which these damaging organisms can establish and thrive, making them a threat to more countries and plants. A key issue that scientists face is trying to predict which of these organisms could/will cause problems for plants in the future, and where. The overall aim of this project was to establish the basis for an International Plant Sentinel Network (IPSN) as an early-warning system for future pest and disease threats. The network would use enhanced monitoring of plants that are growing outside their natural regions for damage by all the organisms that exist in the new environment; i.e. ‘sentinel plants’. Research has shown the potential power of using sentinel plants for identifying new pest organisms (Fagan et al., 2008, Baker et al., 2009, Britton et al., 2010, Kenis et al., 2011; Tomoshevitch et al., 2013, ISEFOR, 2015). As well as helping to identify ‘unknowns’ or ‘future threats’, research can also provide key information about pests and diseases that scientists already know but which are poorly characterised. The more scientists (and botanical institute) know, the better the management plans that can be put in place to prevent the introduction of such pests and/or slow or stop their establishment and spread. For this reason, the aim of the IPSN is to bring together experts from different backgrounds who work in plant health, including those working in governments, academic institutions and NGOs combined with staff working in botanic gardens and arboreta. Although botanic gardens and arboreta offer excellent sites to carry out sentinel plant research; they are currently often overlooked by researchers. Through the Euphresco project, the IPSN aimed to raise awareness and train staff working in botanic gardens and arboreta so that they could look for pests and diseases within their gardens and share this information with appropriate experts. The IPSN Euphresco project had 3 key objectives:

- International network and collaboration; this included building a network of scientists from countries around the world, bringing together contributors from a wide range of backgrounds including scientists, garden staff and governments. It also included publishing a website to provide a place where all information and newly developed IPSN resources could be stored and disseminated.

- Developing and sharing best practice; this included searching for and collating existing resources so that staff from botanic gardens and arboreta could easily access and use them. It also involved developing forms and processes that helped users record the required information needed in a consistent and easy to read form.

- Ensuring a long-term future: this included making sure the network would be able to continue into the future by moving towards a sustainable funding model.

Scientific report of the Euphresco funded project 'International Plant Sentinel Network' (IPSN)
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