Urban trees: bridge-heads for forest pest invasions and sentinels for early detection
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Urban trees have been increasingly appreciated for the many benefits they provide. As concentrated hubs of human-mediated movement, the urban landscape is, however, often the first point of contact for exotic pests including insects and plant pathogens. Consequently, urban trees can be important for accidentally introduced forest pests to become established and potentially invasive. Reductions in biodiversity and the potential for stressful conditions arising from anthropogenic disturbances can predispose these trees to pest attack, further increasing the likelihood of exotic forest pests becoming established and increasing in density. Once established in urban environments, dispersal of introduced pests can proceed to natural forest landscapes or planted forests. In addition to permanent long-term damage to natural ecosystems, the consequences of these invasions include costly attempts at eradication and post establishment management strategies. We discuss a range of ecological, economic and social impacts arising from these incursions and the importance of global biosecurity is highlighted as a crucially important barrier to pest invasions. Finally, we suggest that urban trees may be viewed as ‘sentinel plantings’. In particular, botanical gardens and arboreta frequently house large collections of exotic plantings, providing a unique opportunity to help predict and prevent the invasion of new pests, and where introduced pests with the capacity to cause serious impacts in forest environments could potentially be detected during the initial stages of establishment. Such early detection offers the only realistic prospect of eradication, thereby reducing damaging ecological impacts and long term management costs.
- RESEARCH: CIB Associates