Prevention is considered the most cost-effective element of the Forest Service Invasive Species Strategy. What makes prevention difficult is the desire to maximize free trade while at the same time protecting natural resources. The role of science is to first identify which commodities pose an unacceptable risk, and then either develop mitigations that will adequately ameliorate the risk, or technically justify and facilitate commodity exclusion.
Recently, Forest Service scientists and partners identified the most likely pathways for arrival on the 80 most important non-native forest inspect pests and pathogens. For 70% of these pests, the most likely pathway was plants for planting. For wood borers and bark beetles, the most frequent pathway was raw wood products and wood packaging materials. Safe trade in wood products requires substantial knowledge of pest biology, and Forest Service scientists must continue our significant role in filling important knowledge gaps. Forest Service researchers conducted numerous studies to identify treatments now implemented in the international standard for phytosanitary measure for wood packaging materials (ISPM-15).
Another aspect of prevention is our efforts to prevent the spread of pests already present, but restricted in distribution in the U.S. The resources required to maintain effective monitoring and apply control treatments dictate careful targeting of these efforts. Risk assessment of vulnerable ecosystems requires specific predictive tools for pests under current conditions. The potential impacts of climate change on pest biology must also be understood to help prioritize management options. Accurate predictive models rely on studies of pest biology and interactions with host and environment, a strength of Forest Service R&D.
A detailed vision of Forest Service Research & Development’s role in preventing invasive species is provided in A Dynamic Invasive Species Research Vision: Opportunities and Priorities 2009-29.