The arrival of ‘ash dieback’ in 2012, a fatal disease that aggressively infects trees, in the UK was big news, and generated a range of citizen science responses. This thoughtful article, from Judith Tsouvalis at the University of Nottingham, looks at the sometimes awkward relationship of such programs with language used by those concentrating on issues of biosecurity. As citizen science programs work more closely with state agencies, these kind of considerations will continue to crop up. — CJL.

Protecting tree and plant health remains a concern firmly embedded in the science-based, technocratic discourse of ‘biosecurity’ with its emphasis on regulation, surveillance, and control. Here, Judith Tsouvalis argues that this makes it difficult to have a broader debate on the deeper, more complex causes of the steep rise in tree and plant disease epidemics worldwide.

Much has changed since the trade-related arrival of ash dieback (Chalara) at a nursery in Buckinghamshire in February 2012. On the negative side, 652 sites across England, Scotland and Wales are now known to contain trees infected with the potentially fatal disease. It is also accepted that the spread of the disease cannot be stopped. There is hope for treatments, but they are currently still in the development phase and their wider ecological implications are unknown. Assuming therefore that ash dieback will run its course and take its toll, the estimate that the UK will lose at least fifty species identified as solely relying on the ash for their survival is tragic. On the positive side, Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, as the pathogenic fungus from East Asia that causes Chalara is now called, has spurred science and policy in the area of tree and plant health into action.

Source: How social and citizen science help challenge the limits of the biosecurity approach: the case of ash dieback.

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