Uninvited guest pests sneaking their way into the European Union

In the intricate world of plant health, there is a hidden story of constant battles against pests. To better understand how to prevent these invasions and offer valuable insights into potential future trends, we compiled a comprehensive dataset of the first introductions of pests in the EU.
Uninvited guest pests sneaking their way into the European Union

In the intricate world of plant health, there is a hidden story of constant battles against pests.  Particularly, non-indigenous pests can seriously reduce crop yields and disrupt ecosystems, resulting in substantial socioeconomic and environmental losses.  The European Union (EU) has been on the front lines of this battle for years, dealing with a constant influx of species new to the European continent. However, despite national and international efforts, pests continue to sneak their way into the EU.

To better understand how to prevent these invasions, we embarked on a mission - establishing a comprehensive dataset of the first introductions of pests in the EU to try to figure out where they are most likely to sneak in, to offer valuable insights into potential future trends.

Filling the Gap: a spatio-temporal dataset

Details about non-indigenous pests’ introductions can be found in different sources. Within the framework of the HoPPI (Hotspot for Plant Pests Introduction) project, co-funded by the European Food Safety Authority, and with the goal of bridging information gaps and consolidating knowledge from various sources, we gathered these data with a particular emphasis on pinpointing the location where the pests were initially introduced, whenever such information was available.  To achieve this, we obtained information on the first introduction of non-indigenous pests from various sources, including the EPPO Global Database Reporting Service and the European Alien Species Information Network (EASIN) databases, and conducted a systematic literature search.

After a rigorous and systematic process for data extraction, merging, and validation, the final dataset included detailed taxonomic information, regulatory status, and EPPO codes, along with the year and location (e.g., geographic coordinates or region) of the first introduction for 278 non-indigenous pests introduced in the EU between 1999 and 2019 (Figure 1-2). The dataset also includes potential routes of entry via trade. These trade pathways, are key drivers for pests’ entry into the EU across all taxonomic groups and offer insights into how pests might have entered, helping us understand how pests manage to breach our defences.

The dataset can now be freely accessed by clicking here.


Figure 1 EU Member States experiencing first introductions of non-indigenous pests (1999-2019). The color gradient represents the varying number of first pest introductions per NUTS2 (Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics), ranging from white (no pest introductions) to dark green (higher number of pest introductions).

Figure 2 Bar chart showing the number of pests’ first introductions in each EU Member State per year (1999-2019).


Valuable Resource for the Future

Spatially explicit data on the first introduction of plant pests in the EU can be crucial for several reasons: 

  • they might add knowledge to improve target surveillance and early detection of pests in certain areas;
  • provide insights into the factors driving pest introductions, which can inform further research and help predict future invasion patterns;

The dataset serves therefore as a foundation for understanding the factors that contribute to new pest outbreaks, allowing us to prioritise areas with higher chances of pest entry. In the coming months, we are planning to use this dataset to explore trends in plant pest introductions over time and to identify hotspots of introduction within the EU. Understanding these patterns will help us develop more effective strategies to protect our plants and crops.

 Closing Thoughts

Pest invasions impact our lives in very tangible ways. Their introduction and spread are serious threats that can have far-reaching socioeconomic and environmental consequences (EFSA, online). The prevention of entry, early detection, and eradication (in the case they manage to enter) are part of the plant health regulations to avoid substantial impacts. By creating a comprehensive dataset of plant pest introductions in the EU, we are providing a tool to continue tackling these invasions head-on. This work is just the beginning to contribute to increasing our understanding of the drivers of plant pest introduction.

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