Globalisation also endangers the health of forests

According to researchers at the University of Valladolid, globalisation implies an increase in trade in plants, seeds and wood, leading to an exponential increase in invasive exotic species, forest pests and diseases.

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The introduction of exotic pests and diseases is one of the greatest environmental challenges in the world, according to the Forest Pathology Unit of the Palencia Campus of the University of Valladolid. In these days that globalisation is so in vogue for its implications in the transmission of human diseases, it is even more important to highlight the consequences on our forests.

Environmental awareness has increased markedly, especially in the effects of climate change and deforestation. However, researchers from the Forest Pathology Unit of the Palencia Campus of the University of Valladolid (iuFOR; UVa-INIA) have shown that another aspect not as well known to society as the introduction of exotic pests and diseases is one of the biggest environmental challenges worldwide.

Globalisation has not only implied an increase in the movement of people, but also in trade with plants, seeds, wood and other elements, which leads to an exponential increase in invasive alien species, according to the researchers. The losses caused by these species are estimated to be at least 12,000 million euros annually in Europe alone.

Among exotic diseases, elm graphiosis is the best known by society because it meant the practical disappearance of elms from the forest landscape in the 1980s. However, many others, of recent appearance such as the pine wood nematode, the resinous chancre of the pine and the decay of the alder, among others, are not so well known and are modifying the current forest landscape.

The introduction of new pests and diseases, far from being reduced, has been increasing exponentially in recent decades. In fact, the list of species that are a threat to our forests is enormous and does not stop growing, as stated by the EPPO (European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization) in its quarantine species lists.

The forest pathology group at the University of Valladolid has been studying the effects of invasive exotic species that have come to Spain for 25 years. Recently, Dr. Jorge Martín García and Professor Julio Diez Casero have published in the magazine “The Conservation” an article in which it is stated that most of these imports correspond to indoor ornamental plants that are simply of decorative interest. You can read here the full article in Spanish and French.

According to the UVa researchers, this fact should make us rethink the current legislation on imports and whether global trade in this type of plant material is really necessary.