Woodward D. Bailey
USDA, APHIS, PPQ, Center for Plant Health Science and Technology, Plant Epidemiology and Risk Analysis Laboratory, 1730 Varsity Drive, Suite 300, Raleigh, NC 27606 USA; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
In 2000, the North American Plant Protection Organization initiated its Phytosanitary Alert System Web site (www.pestalert.org) to increase awareness of exotic pest threats to North America by providing information on significant emerging pest situations globally. Such knowledge allows phytosanitary managers, researchers and inspectors alike to better focus resources based on pest threat. Staff members of the Phytosanitary Alert System glean the pest data from multiple sources, including the North American national plant protection organizations, the Internet, electronic databases, news services, other regional and national plant protection organizations, primary literature and personal international networks. In addition to providing these pest alerts, the Phytosanitary Alert System is now addressing pest reporting obligations of its member countries in accordance with the International Plant Protection Convention.
North American geography lends itself to a cooperative approach to exotic plant pest exclusion strategies. The proximity and vastness of two enveloping oceans have historically proved a valuable ally to our agencies with responsibility for phytosanitary protection: the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (Canada), Sanidad Vegetal (Mexico) and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (United States).
The North American continent now faces an operating environment where geographic boundaries provide insufficient safeguards. Increasing globalization has resulted in new trade agreements, higher overall trade and new trading patterns (and pest introduction pathways), new markets and products, record tourism levels, and intentional smuggling of contraband commodities and pests. Concurrently, new pest reporting obligations require timely and accurate information sharing among trading partners regarding quarantine pest infestations.
The experience of the United States offers insight into the increasing biological and economic stresses posed by exotic pests to North America. Non-indigenous invasive species are estimated to cost the United States more than $136 billion per year (Pimentel et al., 2000). Between 1994 and 2000 in the state of Florida, quarantine pest interceptions at ports of entry rose by 162 percent (Klassen, Brodel and Fieselmann, 2002), and 150 new arthropods were found to have established in the state from 1986 to 2000 (Thomas, 2000). The situation in Florida is by no means unique: 3 559 arthropods and 1 589 other exotic taxa were established in Hawaii as at 2001 (Hawaii Biological Survey, 2001); 208 new arthropods were documented in California from 1955 to 1988 (Dowell and Gill, 1989); and 26 new arthropods and nematodes became established in Washington from 1985 to 2000 (LaGasa, 2001).
This growing pest pressure in the United States has necessitated a greater federal response. The New Pest Advisory Group of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, for example, is responsible for providing the first federal response and recommendations for new and imminent exotic plant pest incursions in the United States. While this group dealt with 27 pests in 1998, increased staff and resources permitted it to consider 144 pests in 2001 (figure 1).
Fig. 1: Pests considered by year by the New Pest Advisory Group.
Source: Center for Plant Health Science and Technology, Raleigh, NC, USA.
The potential benefits of a holistic exotic plant pest exclusion cooperative functioning in North America are evident. This role is filled by the North American Plant Protection Organization. Much of NAPPO's work is accomplished by panels; there are currently 18 NAPPO panels with responsibilities encompassing both trade facilitation and protection from the entry, establishment and spread of regulated plant pests. All of these panels deal with some aspects of plant protection from exotic pests.
This following summary comes from the author's perspective as chairperson of the NAPPO Phytosanitary Alert System (PAS) Panel. Readers are encouraged to browse the NAPPO Web site (www.nappo.org) for more information on exotic pest information activities outside the scope of the PAS Panel.
The PAS Panel was established in 2000 and charged with developing an early warning system for exotic pest threats. This initial focus was on significant emerging pest situations globally; by filtering out routine information and furnishing summaries of real threats, focus could be provided for North American inspectors, phytosanitary managers and regulatory scientists. The PAS medium for this information system is its Web site, www.pestalert.org.
Access to large amounts of exotic pest data is required in order to screen for "nuggets" of interest to North America. We obtain international pest information from multiple sources, including Web-accessible or other e-databases, other regional plant protection organizations, domestic port interception records and trends, personal international networks, international news services, primary and popular literature, internal documents and various agency staff, and a growing list of archived Internet resources. These sources are routinely scanned by PAS editorial staff in Raleigh, North Carolina, as well as by panel members from Canada and Mexico.
From the beginning, the PAS Web site was designed to evolve based on user needs and changes in information resources. Initially, we focused solely on providing "pest alerts", which are detailed and verified reports of threatening pests or pathways of introduction, including images and links. A "news stories" category was subsequently added to capture information summaries that have come from apparently reliable sources but have not been independently confirmed or verified with the appropriate national plant protection organization or RPPO. To accommodate the bilingual status of NAPPO, the PAS Web site is now also available in Spanish.
In 2001, the PAS Panel was charged with developing a standard for NAPPO compliance with a (then) draft IPPC standard on pest reporting (now ISPM 17: Pest reporting), which mandates reporting of incidences of occurrence, outbreak or spread of pests of immediate or potential danger to trading partners. Numerous drafts eventually resulted in the adoption of a decision sheet (at www.nappo.org) in August 2003, which establishes the PAS Web site as the NAPPO reporting repository, and places responsibility for internal clearance on individual NPPOs within NAPPO. The PAS Web site therefore now offers:
In addition, a free subscriber service is available from the home page, which provides periodic e-mail notification of new postings to the Web site.
New data-mining technologies (including Web crawlers, text mining, translation services and query capabilities) are evaluated by the PAS Panel as tools to permit our information analysts to spend less time on data acquisition and more on evaluation. The panel is utilizing and continually refining automated "biosurveillance" technologies for searching private-sector, open-source intelligence to track international ecological, geopolitical, economic and biosecurity developments that are relevant to emerging pest situations. By employing search engines and proprietary query and analysis tools, we are continuing to develop a robust analytical production capability for identifying emerging plant and animal diseases from open sources worldwide. This requires the combined expertise of national plant protection organizations, industry, academia and information systems technologists. The automation assists in corroborating, confirming or refuting information obtained from other sources. It also helps in enhancing existing knowledge and providing new information in efforts to identify and monitor emerging threats. Automated biosurveillance further serves as a filter to reduce the volume of pest intelligence requiring analytical review.
References and further information
Dowell, R.V. & Gill, R. 1989. Exotic invertebrates and their effects on California. Pan-Pacific Entomologist, 65(2): 132 - 145.
Hawaii Biological Survey, 2001. Hawaii Biological Survey Reports, Bishop Museum, Winter 2001 No. 1 (http://hbs.bishopmuseum.org/pdf/HBS-Reports-no.1.pdf). [Editorial note, October 2004: this link is no longer functional.]
Klassen, W., Brodel, C.F. & Fieselmann, D.A. 2002. Exotic pests of plants: current and future threats to horticultural production and trade in Florida and the Caribbean Basin. Micronesica, supplement 6: 5 - 27.
LaGasa, E. 2001. Surveys and diagnostics 2000: Virtual cart, digital horse, and uphill reality. In USDA-APHIS. Detecting and monitoring of invasive species, pp 45 - 59. Proceedings of the Plant Health Conference 2000: 24 - 25 October 2000, Raleigh, North Carolina, US. Raleigh, North Carolina, US, USDA, PPQ, Center for Plant Health Science and Technology.
Pimentel, D., Lach, L., Zuniga, R. & Morrison, D. 2000. Environmental and economic costs of nonindigenous species in the United States. BioScience, 50(1): 53 - 65.
Thomas, M.C. 2000. The exotic invasion of Florida: a report on arthropod immigration into the Sunshine State. Division of Plant Industry, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (available at http://doacs.state.fl.us; last revised August 2000).