The world is more interconnected than ever. Globalization allows for vast economic growth and development. However, there can be unintended consequences – the introduction of potentially threatening non-native species into new ecosystems.
“Many small but mighty pests and pathogens are moving around the world,” said Jiri Hulcr, an associate professor with the UF/IFAS School of Forest Resources and Conservation (SFRC), “Native Florida trees are being attacked by invasives and they have no natural defense.”
However, Hulcr says there is still hope for forests if scientists can work together on a global-scale. He invites the public to join the SFRC’s 25th Annual John Gray Lecture on Feb. 21 to learn more about how they can help.
This year’s distinguished speaker, Michael Wingfield, President of the International Union of Forest Research Organizations, will present a lecture, “Global Tree Health: Winning the Battle Against Invasive Pests.” From pathogens to politics, Wingfield will describe the cooperation between academia, industry, and government that his team has been using to fight off emerging threats to the world’s forests.
“Forests and woodland ecosystems are a hugely important natural resource, easily overlooked and often undervalued. Now, the health of forests, both natural and managed, is more heavily threatened than ever before,” said Wingfield.
UF/IFAS researchers recently calculated that Florida’s forest industry generated $12.5 billion in sales in 2016 alone. Forests also provide tremendous value in ecosystems services like clean air, shade, and carbon storage.
“Unless this is addressed, pest problems will continue to grow and will threaten the long-term sustainability of forestry worldwide,” said Wingfield. For his presentation, Wingfield will pull from his experience conducting research in forests across the world.
“Dr. Wingfield has developed the world’s most successful and most productive industry-academia cooperative on forest health research. We are so honored to have such an accomplished forest pathologist joining us,” Hulcr said.
Wingfield sees his visit to UF as an opportunity for partnership. “We are dealing with an incredible problem that’s taking place on a global scale. I hope to spark a discussion and debate about what lies ahead and how we can best collaborate for a solution,” he said.