7.03.15 - Social dimensions of forest health
The increased biosecurity threat to trees, woods and forests from pests and pathogens has been strongly linked to the continuing expansion of international trade (e.g. live plants, wood packaging material) and tourism, as well as improvements in modes of transport. In addition, both outbreak dynamics and the potential for pests and pathogens to establish themselves are likely to be impacted by increasing climate change. Preventing, limiting and/or managing outbreaks and invasions of tree pests and pathogens require actions from a wide range of actors involved - from growers, traders, transporters and quarantine officers through to sellers, consumers and countryside visitors. Many factors affect these actions, including stakeholder values, motivations and risk perceptions, as well as the regulative and economic frameworks within which this very wide spectrum of actors operate. Understanding these factors is key to any future attempts to improve biosecurity through prevention, detection, control (mitigation) and adaptation.
This Working Party provides an excellent opportunity to bring together social, natural and economic expertise in areas such as environmental and biosecurity governance, trade policy and practices, understanding risk and uncertainty, communication and engagement. The aim of the Working Party is to bring together key researchers already working, or interested in working, in this area to exchange knowledge and experiences and establish research needs. However, it also expected that Working Party members will contribute to improved dialogue between researchers and biosecurity policymakers, industry, other practitioners and wider stakeholders.
This Working Party is organised around the four themes listed below. These will help to address fundamental questions around how to prevent new introductions and more effectively manage outbreaks, along with improving societal involvement in biosecurity through awareness-raising and changes in current practices. Important cross-cutting topics such as impacts of climate change will be considered across all themes. For example, taking account of how responses to climate change might have corollary impacts (social, economic and political costs or benefits) on tree health and/or the social / economic / political consequences of increased tree pests and diseases resulting from climate change.
Governance frameworks can be both formal (e.g. legislation, policy and regulation) and informal (e.g. certification or voluntary codes of conduct). Today, the governance of tree health is a complex multi-level system drawing regulation from several different areas and scales. Key questions include, for instance, how do international trade regulation, European Union and national legislation in multiple sectors steer what can be regulated and what mechanisms can be used. Moreover, how governance at various scales influence biosecurity practice, and which aspects of governance have most impact. The focus on governance aims to address both the impact and limitations of this system in specific cases and assess the diverse ways in which key pathways (e.g. live plants) are currently regulated and implemented (e.g. through inspections and management). The group aims to discuss governance and coordination structures at local to national, European and other regional and International levels for effective tree biosecurity. Gaps in capacity and capability, loopholes currently exploited (and by whom), lessons learned (including from other sectors) and opportunities for implementing specific measures constitute important issues to address.
2. Stakeholder values, practices and behaviours
The tree health and plant biosecurity stakeholder landscape is notoriously complex and dynamic due to the range of interests and influences involved across the public and private sector, number of potential pathways, varying levels of awareness of tree health issues and inherent uncertainties around which biosecurity practices and behaviours would be most effective. Moreover, different types of stakeholders are important at different stages (e.g. prevention and/or adaptation). The group will build on research into tree health stakeholder mapping conducted in different national contexts (e.g. Dandy et al 2012) and at the European scale (for instance COST Action PERMIT, http://www.cost.eu/COST_Actions/fps/Actions/FP1002, to identify key stakeholder groupings and discuss the current levels of awareness of pest and disease risk. Values and attitudes play a key role in determining actions and behaviours. For example, preventative practices are often resisted due to a denial of the existence of a threat or beliefs that it is someone else's role or responsibility to prevent disease. Furthermore trust (e.g. in government) appears to be a key factor in the acceptance of control programmes. The group will consider how risks are perceived and affect behaviours and which of those behaviours may be considered most threatening with regard to tree health biosecurity. A synthesis of behavioural theories and other relevant frameworks will be used as a basis for exploring how different stakeholders can in future potentially make a greater contribution to tree health (including citizen science approaches). We will highlight research gaps in this area and identify opportunities for interdisciplinary collaborations to address these.
3. Economic values and impacts
Economic analysis supports forest protection decision-making by providing information about the costs of improved biosecurity and the benefits of avoiding damage to forest ecosystems. Decisions about forest protection include the development and implementation of policies and practices to prevent the introduction of non-native pests, detect newly established pests, and manage successful invasions. Economic analysis of biosecurity measures is challenged by a lack of knowledge about factors contributing to successful invasions, the efficacy of practices to detect and control pest outbreaks, and the type and monetary value of damages caused by forest pests. The group will explore ways to quantify the effects of non-native species on both market and non-market benefits that people receive from forest ecosystems (e.g., wood products, carbon storage, water quality and quantity, aesthetic quality, recreation) and to estimate the monetary value of changes in those benefits. The group will analyse the benefits and costs of trade policies to prevent introduction of non-native pests, surveillance programs to detect newly established invaders, and management programs to limit the damage of existing invaders. Important themes of this work will include the development of economic approaches to analysing biosecurity measures under conditions of risk and uncertainty, analysis of the spatial and temporal resolution needed to capture key elements of the joint ecological-economic system, and the incentives required to motivate forest health stakeholders to take protective forest health actions.
4. Risk communication and engagement
Action at all stages requires different sorts of engagement with different stakeholders and at different times. While there are a number of publications available in the 'grey literature' which outline how to communicate, there is very little direct evidence of the role of different approaches with regard to tree health. The group will explore how public authorities (national and international) and other organisations, institutions and networks can most effectively engage with tree health stakeholders in order to support tree health. Some work has been done to synthesise available evidence on engagement and awareness-raising in other fields or sectors (e.g. climate change, animal health), which could be trialled in the tree health sector. We will seek to identify what knowledge-exchange mechanisms may be needed, examples of good intervention measures and evaluation approaches to monitor effectiveness in different cases.