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© Imperial College London Governing Tree Disease Epidemics: Some policy lessons from the ramorum outbreak Clive Potter Centre for Environmental Policy.

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Presentation on theme: "© Imperial College London Governing Tree Disease Epidemics: Some policy lessons from the ramorum outbreak Clive Potter Centre for Environmental Policy."— Presentation transcript:

1 © Imperial College London Governing Tree Disease Epidemics: Some policy lessons from the ramorum outbreak Clive Potter Centre for Environmental Policy Imperial College London

2 © Imperial College London The Story to Date An evolving story, in which plant health authorities have struggled to keep up with a disease that has expanded its host range; An evolving story, in which plant health authorities have struggled to keep up with a disease that has expanded its host range; Initial focus on eradication within the nursery trade has given way to a broader strategy of attempted containment focussed on woodland, historic gardens and commercial forestry Initial focus on eradication within the nursery trade has given way to a broader strategy of attempted containment focussed on woodland, historic gardens and commercial forestry

3 © Imperial College London November 2002 Government puts in place emergency measures February 2003 Interim Programme Board established March 2009 New funding for R.ponticum clearance and other measures Spring 2011 Larch clearance begins on FC land November 2011 New Tree Health and Biosecurity Action Plan announced 2003 Discovery of ‘new’ P. kernoviae pathogen in Cornwall 2008 P.k pathogen identified in open heathland 2009 Discovery of P.r on Japanese larch in SW 2011 Confirmation of P.r. on European larch Summer 2001 P.ramorum pathogen first identified on nursery stock

4 © Imperial College London The policy challenge Complicated science and an evidence base that has co-evolved with the disease system Complicated science and an evidence base that has co-evolved with the disease system Many stakeholders involved, some of whom may be ignorant, apathetic or misinformed Many stakeholders involved, some of whom may be ignorant, apathetic or misinformed Presence of difficult to navigate conflicts between commercial interests and the wider public good Presence of difficult to navigate conflicts between commercial interests and the wider public good

5 © Imperial College London We’ve been here before The 1970s Dutch Elm Disease outbreak, while biologically v different, is an obvious point of historical reference; The 1970s Dutch Elm Disease outbreak, while biologically v different, is an obvious point of historical reference; In this case, delays in identification, Treasury reluctance to fund, confusion regarding liability and the decision to devolve management onto poorly resourced local authorities fatally compromised the policy response In this case, delays in identification, Treasury reluctance to fund, confusion regarding liability and the decision to devolve management onto poorly resourced local authorities fatally compromised the policy response

6 © Imperial College London Snapshots of the UK Dutch Elm Disease Epidemic Presence of live infected elm trees represented in yellow. Red indicates dead elm trees present. Black shading shows that over 60% of elm population had been wiped out by 1979 Mounting public reports of dead and dying elms reach the Advisory Service at the Forestry Commission DED outbreaks identified in three locations in southern England First FC DED survey published shows dramatic extent of DED DED (LA) Order 1971 revoked as deemed to be ineffective 1973: Paper identifying origin of aggressive form published in Nature Idea of a regional cordon sanitaire proposed for southern England 1974: Order restricting movement of diseased elms introduced and (LA) Order reintroduced Initial government response to outbreak is a voluntary sanitation felling campaign Criticism of how outbreak being handled lead to calls for legislation October 1971: DED (Local Authorities) Order 1971 gave powers to 50 authorities to enter land and inspect elm trees and to take steps to prevent the spread of the disease Meanwhile, DED continues its relentless northwards spread …

7 © Imperial College London Lessons to be Learned By comparison, overall management By comparison, overall management of ramorum outbreak has been better: of ramorum outbreak has been better:  rapid, cross-cutting institutional response  extensive stakeholder involvement  excellent work of inspectors on the ground But subsequent spread confirms the cardinal But subsequent spread confirms the cardinal lesson of DED: that tree diseases are very lesson of DED: that tree diseases are very difficult (and costly) to contain once difficult (and costly) to contain once established in the wider environment... established in the wider environment...

8 © Imperial College London The Bigger Picture Tree diseases threats to rural landscapes, urban trees and ecosystem services likely to grow with increasing volumes of horticultural trade; Tree diseases threats to rural landscapes, urban trees and ecosystem services likely to grow with increasing volumes of horticultural trade; But WTO disciplines and Single Market imperatives mean that scope for restricting (as against better regulating) this trade is v limited; But WTO disciplines and Single Market imperatives mean that scope for restricting (as against better regulating) this trade is v limited; So, even with ever more refined risk assessment tools, improved inspections and better surveillance, policymakers typically forced on to the back hoof So, even with ever more refined risk assessment tools, improved inspections and better surveillance, policymakers typically forced on to the back hoof

9 © Imperial College London Future Prospects On other hand, recent review of the EU’s Plant Health Regime has brought limitations of the plant passporting system and other systemic weaknesses to attention of DGSANCO; Defra’s new Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Action Plan suggests plant health issues may in the ascendancy; First inklings of a broader public debate about the hidden economic costs of the global trade in plants?


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