Plant Pathology

The economic cost of an epidemic

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Science  14 Jun 2019:
Vol. 364, Issue 6445, pp. 1044-1045
DOI: 10.1126/science.364.6445.1044-b

Native tree populations in many parts of the world are threatened by alien pathogens, which are often imported inadvertently via the trade in living plants. Hill et al. estimate the likely economic cost of the current epidemic affecting ash (Fraxinus excelsior) in Britain. They find that ash dieback, caused by the fungal pathogen Hymenoscyphus fraxineus imported from continental Europe in ash saplings, may cost £14.8 billion over the next 100 years, with half of that amount accrued over the coming decade. Most of the cost is in lost economic services such as recreation, avoided runoff, and carbon sequestration, although there are also substantial costs incurred by felling dead trees and replanting. The authors point out that these potential costs dwarf the value of the plant trade.

Curr. Biol. 29, R315 (2019).

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