Austrocedrus forests of South America are pivotal ecosystems at risk due to the emergence of an exotic tree disease: can a joint effort of research and policy save them?

Human expansion, global movement, and climate change have led to a number of emerging and re-emerging diseases. The decline of biodiversity due to emerging plants pathogens may cause habitat and wildlife loss and declines in ecosystem services. This, in turn, often results in lower human well-being. Reports
of emerging plant diseases are constantly on the rise, and often they appear to be linked to the commercial trade of plants and plant products. While there are several examples of decimation or extinction of plant hosts affected by invasive forest diseases, there are no known cases of invasive forest diseases successfully eradicated.

Austrocedrus chilensis covers today a total estimated area of 185,000 ha in South America. As a dominant forest species, its role in supporting biodiversity, generating shelter for wildlife, as well as preventing soil erosion and preserving water quality is well understood. Along with Araucaria araucana, it is the tree species that grows furthest into the ecotone zone within the Patagonia steppe, where it plays a key role preventing desertification. There are however additional functions this tree provides, including the production of valuable timber and the generation of an environment ideal for cattle grazing, recreational and touristic activities and for human settlement. As one moves South, this species becomes more and more important, and it is often one of only three dominant native tree species in forests. Due to its ecological importance and to its role in fostering human activities, A. chilensis can be regarded an essential element of the agro-forest society of both Chile and Argentina.

Starting in 1948, significant mortality of A. chilensis was reported in several areas.

Read the full brief below and share your comments.
https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/5950Austrocedrus%20forests%20of%20South%20America.pdf

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34 thoughts on “Austrocedrus forests of South America are pivotal ecosystems at risk due to the emergence of an exotic tree disease: can a joint effort of research and policy save them?

  1. Gloria Abad

    I fully agree and strongly support the initiative.

    During the 7th IUFRO Phytophthora in Forests and Natural Ecosystems international meeting (November 10-14, 2014) with great sadness I had the opportunity to learn about the “Mal del Ciprés” caused by Phytophthora austrocedri which is devastating the National Park “Los Arceles” and other areas in Esquel-Patagonia, Argentina. This is an international tragedy that requires the immediate attention of Argentinian government to support research and policies for managing the progress of the disease in the country. The idea to present this initiative to United Nations is extraordinary as the elite institutions of the world need to be acquainted of this tragedy, as they can take decisions and the power to provide monetary support for the international emergency. The case of the occurrence of the pathogen on Juniper, Cupressus and Chamaecyparis in Great Britain is also of concern. We, as scientists working with Phytophthora should remain united to support this initiative until solutions are offered by UN. As Leonardo Schena refers if action is not taken soon the impact of the disease may be catastrophic.

    Reply
  2. Maria Cristina Sosa

    I fully support the initiative outlined in the brief. Like many other researchers, the last year during the IUFRO meeting, we had the chance to see the devastating effects of this pathogen. Urgent actions are needed in order to prevent the further spread of the disease, to support the research on it and act together with national and provincial governments (Rio Negro, Neuquen, Chubut, Santa Cruz provinces). Should be transmitted to goverments, the concern and importance of the problem, since they have the power to control through different agencies; in addition to the obligation to preserve our heritage trought different politic actions.

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  3. Jonàs Oliva

    I fully support the initiative outlined in the note. I was impressed about the large extension of natural forest is now at stake because of P. austrocedrae. I hope rapid action is taken in order to contain this invasive pathogen.

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  4. Tony Beauchamp

    I recently was part of the IUFRO conference in Pategonia. I have signifcant concerns for these forests is measures are not put in place to protect areas and stop vectoring of the disease. I support the measures to protect what remains of the healthy forests and the reduction in vectoring in the contaminated areas.

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  5. Ana Perez-Sierra

    I saw the devastating effects of Mal del Cipres on Austrocedrus chilensis in the Patagonian Forest and I fully support this initiative. In order to develop effective management strategies to limit its spread we need to fully understand the biology, ecology and pathology of this Phytophthora species.

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  6. Carmen Morales

    I fully support the initiative outlined in the brief. Like many other researchers, the last year during the IUFRO meeting in Patagonia we had the chance to see the devastating effects of this pathogen. El Mal del Ciprés is a serious threaten for valuable, unique Patagonian ecosystems. Urgent actions are needed in order to prevent the further spread of the disease and to support the research on it.

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  7. Leonardo Schena

    I fully support the initiative outlined in the brief. The natural ecosystems of Patagonia are spectacular but concerted efforts are urgently needed to preserve this heritage for humanity and limit the spread of Phytophthora austrocedrae (Mal del Cypress) to other regions. The impact may be be catastrophic.

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  8. David Cooke

    Sadly this is another case in a series of an invasive Phytophthora species wreaking landscape-scale havoc to wonderful natural ecosystems. Austrocedrus chilensis is fundamental to the Patagonian landscape providing ecosystem services and a major economic and social role in the region. Its loss would be devastating and I agree that its protection should be an urgent priority.

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  9. Santa Olga Cacciola

    I am familiar with Mal del Cipres and Austrocedrus mortality and it is a very serious ecological concern, so I believe that actions should be taken by politicians and researchers to come up with practical biosecurity methods for preventing further spread of the pathogen. Funding should also be commited to the restoration of ecosystems based on finding and exploiting natural host resistance.

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  10. Antonella Pane

    I absolutely agree with the whole content of the alert note. I fully support the initiative expressed here aimed at addressing the devastating effects of P. austrocedri in the Patagonian forests. A concerted effort is urgently required to further understand the biology, ecology and pathology of this Phytophthora species and to develop effective management and human engagement strategies to limit its spread.

    Reply
  11. Antonella Pane

    I agree this is an important issue. Quick legislative action and research are critical for conserving the services Austrocedrus forests provide, both ecologically and economically.Patagonia’s ecosystems are being destroyed by this Phytophthora pathogen.A concerted effort is urgently required to further understand the biology, ecology and pathology of this Phytophthora species.

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  12. Duccio Migliorini

    As the primary aim is to guarantee and value the huge ecological role of ciprés de la Cordillera in Patagonian environments, fist efforts should be directed to understand which tree’s genetic populations or proveniences show the best performances of resistance against mal del ciprés. A tree breeding program is likely to give good partial results in few years and consequently, within the production of more resistant plants, an impressive way to require financial resources for the study of all Phytophthora austrocedrae disease aspects.
    I justify my opinion because I think that Austrocaedrus chilensis, over its ecological role in natural stands, is a really interesting species, with a great potential use in urban and peri-urban contests, mines-post fire restoration and silviculture; there are good reasons for authority to support a protection program for this plant

    Reply
  13. Andrea Vannini

    I fully agree with the need to provide the opportunity for research and foresters to contrast the epidemic caused by Phytophthora austrocedri to the icon Patagonia tree Austrocedrus chilensis. During the IUFRO meeting in Patagonia I had the chance to see the devastating effects of the epidemics. Efforts should be put not only to mitigate the effect of the disease but also to re-think the global quarantine regulations and concepts in order to decrease the risk of introduction of such threatening organism in vulnerable ecosystems.

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  14. Louise Croeser

    The forests of Patagonia are spectacular and it would be a tragedy if one of its most important trees, the Austrocedrus chilensis would be destroyed by the pathogen Phytophthora austrocedrae. I fully support any initiative and joint research efforts in saving these trees, as outlined in the brief.

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  15. Nari Williams

    I firmly support the concerns, interpretation of the situation and recommendations presented in this brief. Exotic Phytophthora species are a problem in far too many of the world’s natural ecosystems relating directly to human activity and the role of human activity in their spread.

    The key areas of focus identified in the briefing document of:
    – Mapping the distribution of the disease to delimit healthy and diseased areas.
    – Following good practices for activities in forested areas.
    – Vigilant nursery hygiene for restoration plantings
    – Supporting research on resistance to the disease
    – Cross-institution support with research, govenment and industry for integrated research,
    management and monitoring of diseased forests.
    – Focus on protection of healthy areas to avoid the introduction of the pathogen

    … are all firmly grounded in the history of research and management of similar situations of Phytophthora species in forest systems worldwide. It is apparent that in the case of Mal del ciprés, protecting the healthy stands is achievable if there is the collective will to implement and maintain management in line with these priorities.

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  16. Hemilse Elena Palmucci

    I absolutely agree that Phytophhtora austrocedrae is an important problem that causing the mortality of the Austrocedrus chilensis forests in Patagonia, Argentina. Financial support for researchers and the active intervention of nationals and regional authorities is required to minimise the impact of this pathogen in my country.

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  17. Treena Burgess

    I agree with the initiate and all subsequent comments. The natural ecosystems of Patagonia are spectacular; the existence of Mal del Cypress is bad enough but without concerted efforts to limit its spread to other regions the impact will be catastrophic with the loss of a significant tree from the landscape

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  18. Alan Kanaskie

    I support the initiative addressing the effects of Phytophthora austrocedrae on Patagonian forests. I have seen the disease and the damage it causes and it is imperative that scientists and policy makers develop biosecurity methods to prevent further spread of the pathogen within Argentina and elsewhere in the world. The time to act is now.

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  19. Bruno

    I also support the effort addressed in the brief. It was sad seeing the Patagonian forests being destroyed by this invasive Phytophthora. A concerted action is urgently required to prevent further spread of this disease and to improve research as well.

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  20. harrisanna

    I fully support the initiative outlined in the brief. Urgent actions are needed in order to prevent the further spread of invasive pathogens and to advance the research on it.

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  21. Guillaume Bilodeau

    I fully support effort. Phytophthora austrocedrae (Mal del Cypress) is a serious disease affecting Patagonian ecosystems. Actions are needed in order to prevent the further spread of the disease and to improve research. Moreover this will help in reaction way when other Phytophthora emerging disease may occurs.

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  22. Wilhelm de Beer

    Having seen the destruction caused by this disease on both sides of the Argentinian-Chileaen border in Patagonia during some field work there in 2013, I am obliged to support this venture!

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  23. Karel Cerny

    I fully support the brief – P. austrocedri is dangerous especially at ecosystem level because a keystone species of extremely fragile and unique system of South American mountain forests is attacked. Importance of P. austrocedri invasion is undoubtedly comparable with impact of invasion of other well-known alien organisms endangering natural ecosystems in other continents – for instance P. cinnamomi in Australia or P. ramorum in N. America.

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  24. Luis V. García

    I fully support the content of the note. El Mal del Ciprés is a serious threaten for valuable, unique Patagonian ecosystems. Urgent actions are needed in order to prevent the further spread of the disease and to boost the research on it.

    Reply
  25. Benoit Marçais

    I fully agree with the content of the note. Limiting the spred of invasive forest pathogen is a priority as those are very difficult to managed when widely present. Thus, a large effort to understand to ecology of P. austrcedrae to devise efficient strategies to limits it spread is strongly needed.

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  26. Ian Horner

    I fully support the initiative outlined in the brief. Diseases such as Mal des cipres are devastating natural ecosystems worldwide, in large part because of human activities inadvertently spreading pathogens to new environments and hosts. Active intervention is required to minimise the impact and spread of these pathogens.

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  27. Sarah Green

    I fully support the initiative expressed here aimed at addressing the devastating effects of P. austrocedri in the Patagonian forests. P. austrocedri is also causing severe damage to our fragmented populations of Juniperus communis in Britain. Researchers and policymakers need to work together in Argentina to devise practical biosecurity methods for preventing further spread of the pathogen. Funding should also be commited to the restoration of ecosystems based on finding and exploiting natural host resistance.

    Reply
  28. María Esperanza Sánchez

    I absolutely agree with the whole content of the alert note. Last November I’ve the chance to attend the IUFRO meeting held in Patagonia and I could state that forest health is really bad in some big areas due to Phytophthora austrocedrae infections. In spite of climate features which could influence disease spread and severity, it is still time to take some control measures against the pathogen. Cooperation of National or local forest authorities, owners, researchers and people in general is needed. Fortunately there are skillful research groups in Argentina and other countries who want to work hard to stop the cypress disease. They need financial support, social recognition and attention to their findings

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  29. Pablo Grijalba

    I completely agree that Phytophthora austrocedrae (Mal del Cypress) is a big problem for Argentina. Not only fire but also this severe disease kills the Austrocedrus chilensis. I support the research group who has begun to study the ecosystem because there is a lot to do yet.

    Reply
  30. Maj Padamsee

    Mal des Cipres is a very important issue, which deserves our support both in terms of research and control of the spread of the disease. I fully support the efforts of the scientific team addressed in the brief.

    Reply
  31. Giles Hardy

    Phytophthora diseases of forest trees and natural ecosystems are of increasing concern worldwide. It is with great sadness to see another Phytophthora now causing major disruptions to the Austrocedrus chilensis forests in Patagonia. A concerted effort is urgently required to further understand the biology, ecology and pathology of this Phytophthora species and to develop effective management and human engagement strategies to limit its spread.

    Reply
  32. Nicola La Porta

    I agree with the initiative.
    In addiction to protect such important ecosystem, actions to limit the spread of the disease in South America would help to reduce the risk of introducing and reintroducing the Phytophthora austrocedrae in European forests and urban greenings. In particular on Juniperus, Cupressus and Chamaecyparis.

    Reply
  33. Susan Frankel

    I share these concerns. Patagonia’s ecosystems are being destroyed by this Phytophthora pathogen. Humans started this problem and continue to inadvertently spread the pathogen. We need to make a concerted effort to stop further destruction.

    Reply

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