I had the pleasure of attending a ‘State of the World’s Plants’ symposium in May at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.  This was a two day meeting, with nearly 200 delegates from around the world, to celebrate and explore the importance of plants to natural ecosystems, food security, natural resources and medicinal plants.

Prior to the symposium a report was published focusing on:

  • describing the world’s plants
  • global threats to plants
  • policies
  • international trade

The second item covered:

  • climate change-which plants will be the winners?
  • global land coverage change (wildfires)
  • invasive species
  • plant health-state of research
  • extinction risk
  • threats to plants

The chapter focusing on plant health was authored by international experts including several of my colleagues at Fera Science Ltd.  This chapter posed the question: ‘Which pests pose the biggest threat to plants globally and where is the greatest concentration of research effort on these pests?  It reviewed the research effort on insect pests, causes of global increases in plant insect pests, economic impacts and control of insect pests on plants.

The report highlighted the emerald ash borer (an Observatree priority pest) and one of the talks of our joint Observatree/IPSN EPPO conference last year.  It detailed that the emerald ash borer was found for the first time in North America in Michigan and Ontario in 2002 and, by 2004, 15 million trees were dying.  The beetle was thought to have arrived in Detroit on wood packaging material from overseas.  If all 8 billion ash trees in the US die, the cost to forestry is estimated at $282 billion and the removal of dead urban trees at $20-60 billion.

Along with colleagues from Fera Science Ltd and the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) we presented four posters and short communications concerning plant health.   I spoke about Tree Health Early Warning Systems (THEWS) based on work I have been doing with colleagues at Botanic Gardens Conservation International (with respect to International Plant Sentinel Network).  I was also able to refer to other UK led projects including Observatree and Opal Tree Health survey.

During the poster session, and throughout the conference, I had a lot of interest in citizen science based THEWS projects.  This was encouraging to see and further helps to raise the profile of such initiatives.