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Movements of Invasive Alien Species (IAS) globally by trade and human movement present severe and increasing risks of transfer of plant pests (principally invertebrates and plant pathogens) globally. Climate change adds further opportunities for pest establishment and impact, both by providing increased survival and growth opportunities for pests and, through environmental stresses, making trees more vulnerable to those pests.

In relation to ecosystem services and their longevity, forests are particularly vulnerable to IAS. In particular, multiple PATHWAYS for transfer of pests internationally are poorly characterised, leading to increasing transfer and establishment of new damaging organisms. The COST Action FP1002 PERMIT addresses this shortfall in knowledge and practice and will focus on reducing threats from exotic pests through promoting ENHANCED PATHWAY MANAGEMENT.

The general approach will be through analysis and shared experiences of the principal pathways for movement of forest pests. This will lead to an appraisal of potential generic procedures that could be applied to pathway management, ultimately leading to a “manage once, remove many” Systems Approach to maximise pest reduction and to influence future phytosanitary policy. It will deliver hard copy, electronic and workshop outputs and exchange of experiences through at least 4 Short Term Scientific Missions per year.


The project was divided into the following working groups:

  • Working Group 1: Pathway characterisation linked to pest movements and trade patterns
  • Working Group 2: Development of generic risk mitigation measures to reduce pest movements along pathways
  • Working Group 3: Analysis of the level of education and awareness of risks associated with different pathways
  • Working Group 4: Identification of research and data gathering needs.

Working groups in detail

Funders and partners

This programme was funded by the European Union – EU COST Action FP1002.

PERMIT currently had 24 COST countries and 8 non-COST institutions (from 6 countries) contributing to the Action.

Forest Research involvement

  • Professor Hugh Evans was the Chair of the COST Action.
  • Dr Mariella Marzano was the leader of Working Group 3.


The project started in November 2010 and continued until November 2014.


For further information, please contact the Action chair or vice-chair:


Hugh Evans

Vice Chair

Dr Thomas Jung
Phytophthora Research and Consultancy
Thomastrasse 75
83098 Brannenburg
Tel: +498034708386

Benefits of the PERMIT COST Action

The EU, through Council Directive 2000/29/EC, provides mechanisms for “protective measures against the introduction into the Community of organisms harmful to plants or plant products and against their spread within the Community”. The Directive is essentially a listing of all the potentially harmful pests already identified by the EU Member States and by the Standing Committee on Plant Health and links these pests to particular pathways. Similar list-based approaches have been adopted globally and there are many similarities and overlaps in procedures by different countries, trading groups and RPPOs, all of whom link to both the IPPC and the WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement).

PERMIT will contribute to the ongoing development of improved phytosanitary measures in EU and global contexts, particularly since the contributors to the Action include countries external to COST. By focussing on the component of phytosanitary risk that, by definition, provides clear opportunities for international transfer of pests, the Action is also well placed to quantify those risks generically and, thereby, to consider generic methods for their reduction – “manage once, remove many”.

Meetings of the PERMIT COST Action


Kick-off meeting at COST Office

18/19 November 2010, Brussels.
Management Committee members only, with election of Chair, Vice-Chair and Working Group and STSM leaders and deputies.


Management Committee and Science meeting

5/6 May 2011, Faculty of Forestry, University of Belgrade, Serbia.
Local organiser – Prof Milka Glavendekic.

Working Groups 1 & 2

Autumn 2011 (precise meeting date to be confirmed).
Probable venue EPPO HQ, Paris.

Objectives of PERMIT

Overall objective

The main objective of PERMIT is, through enhanced knowledge gathering, sharing and synthesis, to reduce the potential threats to forests from pests of phytosanitary concern through promoting ENHANCED PATHWAY MANAGEMENT.

It will achieve this through a series of inter-related and sequential objectives. It will employ analysis and shared experiences of the principal pathways for movement of forest pests, leading to an appraisal of potential generic procedures that could be applied to pathway management, ultimately leading to a “manage once, remove many” approach to maximise pest reduction.

Secondary objectives

To achieve the primary objective the Action will use two broad secondary objectives:

Objective 1: Quantification of pathway risk

This objective will identify high risk pathways through quantifying the volumes of goods or other materials moved along each pathway, the type of goods/materials moved, and the organisms vectored by these pathways. This will allow quantification of risks associated with individual pathways so that Objective 2 can focus on the highest impact pathways.

Objective 2: Pathway risk mitigation

This objective will focus on communication to end users of risks associated with specific pathways, and will ultimately develop a decision support system that can be used by regulatory agencies to identify and mitigate the risks posed by individual pathways. The ultimate goal is a “manage once, remove many” approach that mitigates risk from multiple organisms, not all of which will be pre-classified as hazardous to the receiving country or region.

Dissemination of findings

Dissemination and interactive sharing of the findings from the Action will be through a dedicated website, a series of workshops (some linked to the regular meetings of the Action) and, ultimately, a Decision Support Tool available as hard copy and electronic platforms.

How will the objectives be achieved?

The objectives will be achieved through both literature searches and shared expertise and experiences of the PERMIT participants, particularly bringing in expertise and knowledge of the biological and ecological interactions between pests and potential pathways. Arising from this synthesis, research needs and gaps will be identified and, where possible, these will be addressed immediately either through adaptation of existing research programmes or through application for new funding streams.


  • Working Groups will address the 7 principal Tasks to be carried out within the Action. Interaction between the Working Groups and national and international research programmes and with Regional Plant Protection Organisations will guide the precise directions of work and provide interactive evaluation of progress.
  • Arising from the Working Group deliberations, at least 4 Short Term Scientific Missions (STSMs) per year will be organised to enhance shared experiences and to address in more detail specific topics identified for further analysis.
  • Knowledge transfer, delivery of decision support systems and their testing by end-users will be achieved through electronic (principally the PERMIT website), hard-copy and verbal means. The latter will be by workshops and demonstration events.
  • Management of the project will be through an agreed timetable developed by the Management Committee and maintained by the Chair and Vice-Chair using suitable project management software. This will ensure that deliverables are identified and milestones for their achievement kept under constant review.

PERMIT Cost Action – short term scientific missions

COST Actions encourage Early Stage Researchers (ESRs) to take advantage of Short Term Scientific Missions (STSMs) to provide collaboration within and between COST countries.

Basic requirements for STSMs are:

  • STSMs are intended mainly for the benefit of ESRs, i.e. within 8 years of completing a higher degree such as a doctorate. However participants that do not qualify as ESRs may apply for a STSM in well-justified cases.
  • The financial support for STSMs lasting three months or less is €2500.
  • For ESRs only, it is possible to extend the STSM beyond three months up to a maximum of six months, in which case the maximum financial support available is €3500.
  • STSMs must start and finish within one of the Action’s Grant Periods which are one calendar year at a time (it is not currently possible for a STSM to start in one Grant Period and finish in another).

The STSM coordinator for PERMIT is Dr Rimvys Vasaitis (see below) and enquiries and applications should be made to him in the first instance. Applications can only be submitted by using the on-line registration tool described in COST Vademecum and forwarding the necessary documents to the STSM Manager for onward transmission to the Steering Committee members.


Dr Rimvys Vasaitis
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
Dept. of Forest Mycology and Pathology
SE – 75007 Uppsala

Tel: +4618672729

Purpose of the PERMIT Cost Action

The threat from Invasive Alien Species (IAS)

The introduction of species beyond their natural ranges has risen dramatically and at an accelerating rate over the past 50 years, due to increased transport, trade, travel and tourism on a global scale. Such PATHWAYS provide opportunities for transport of species across bio-geographic barriers that would otherwise prevent their movement.

IAS are species introduced outside their natural habitats where they may invade, establish, out-compete native species and disrupt ecosystem services. Biological invasions operate globally and are considered to be the second cause of biodiversity loss after direct habitat destruction. They are predicted to become the major engines of adverse ecological change in the future because of their increased spread and establishment. In addition to threats to biodiversity and ecosystem services, the direct costs of IAS in relation to crop and amenity losses are immense.

Therefore, the planning of more effective strategies to deal with biological invasions is a global conservation and socio-economic priority, requiring improved actions at national and international levels based on proactive rather than reactive approaches.

Fundamental to maintaining biosecurity is improving our understanding of the pathways by which pests are moved internationally and, arising from this improved knowledge, development and implementation of enhanced pathway management to reduce or eliminate pest risks.

Fundamentally, keeping pests out is far more effective than attempting to eradicate or contain them after they have established in a new location.

The basis for developing improved methods for reducing pest movement along PATHWAYS is the sharing of knowledge, its synthesis through use of international expertise and, as key outputs, the development of new proposals and decision support for ENHANCED PATHWAY MANAGEMENT. Such a knowledge-based initiative is the fundamental driver of the PERMIT COST Action, where the emphasis is on developing and enhancing networks and by building and synergising capacity between existing and new research groups. Synthesis of state-of-the-art knowledge, including identification of gaps in that knowledge, will be provided by hard-copy, electronic and workshop outputs from this COST Action.

Context and approach

Although there are a range of EU and international projects and research initiatives related to specific phytosanitary threats, there is surprisingly little coordinated action or exchange of experiences and information on the biological and physical attributes of pathways for movement of pests globally. Some initiatives have commenced (e.g. the IUFRO Alien Invasive Species and International Trade Unit has a small working group on Plants for Planting as a Pathway) but they tend not to have a funding basis that allows frequent and structured interaction with relevant scientists, practitioners and stakeholders. PERMIT provides this structured network to enhance knowledge exchange, sharing and synthesis.

  • PERMIT focuses on reducing the potential threats from exotic pests through promoting enhanced pathway management. It does this through inter-related and sequential objectives. The general approach is analysis and shared experiences of the principal pathways for movement of forest and woodland pests, leading to an appraisal of potential generic procedures that could be applied to pathway management ultimately leading to a “manage once, remove many” approach to maximise pest reduction.
  • PERMIT recognises that the nature of international trade is evolving and increasing in scale. For example, in recent years, the demand for, and delivery of, live Plants for Planting including ornamental and forest/woodland trees has increased enormously (the value of all trade in imported live plants to the EU Member States was €1,434 Billion in 2007). This relatively new, high risk, pathway adds to those, such as wood products, wood packaging, etc, already recognised as presenting phytosanitary risks.
  • Each pathway has a biological ‘carrying capacity’ that reflects the range of pests that could be associated with the pathway at origin. When combined with predictions that, because of climate change, many pests will increase in severity and in their capacity to exploit host plants in new locations, the need for increased knowledge exchange and analysis is fundamental to anticipating new problems and for early development of solutions to combat any increased threats.
  • PERMIT, therefore, provides an interdisciplinary and interactive forum, based around scientists, phytosanitary authorities, wider stakeholders and end-users from a range of COST and non-COST countries. It provides a structured means of addressing the wider biological characteristics of pathways of global pest movement and will recommend generic processes for maximal pathway risk reduction, thus extending beyond, but complementary to, the current list-based emphasis in phytosanitary procedures. Further benefits will arise from:
    • Enhanced protection of the European forest and woodland estate leading to increased financial and amenity values.
    • Improved and more secure flow of goods internationally, supporting global trade, whilst contributing to reduced phytosanitary risk.

Steering committee of the PERMIT COST Action

The Action has a Steering Committee for rapid assessment of key aspects relating to the work of PERMIT; these include choice of meeting venues and dates as well as encouragement and administration of Short Term Scientific Missions.

  • Chair: Professor Hugh Evans, Forest Research, Rhodfa Padarn, Llanbadarn Fawr, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, SY23 3UR, United Kingdom
    Tel: +443000680079
  • Vice Chair: Dr Thomas Jung, Phytophthora Research and Consultancy, Thomastrasse 75, 83098 Brannenburg, Germany
    Tel: +498034708386

Working Group Leaders and Deputies

Working Group 1: Pathway characterisation linked to pest movements and trade patterns

  • Leader: Dr Anna Maria Vettraino, University of Tuscia, S.Camillo de Lellis, 01100 Viterbo, Italy
    Tel: +390761357449
  • Deputy: Dr Marc Kenis, CABI Europe-Switzerland, 1 Rue des Grillons, 2800 Delemont, Switzerland
    Tel: +41324214884

Working Group 2: Development of generic risk mitigation measures to reduce pest movements along pathways

  • Leader: Professor Jean-Claude Grégoire, Université Libre de Bruxelles, 50 av. F.D. Roosevelt, 1050 Bruxelles, Belgium
    Tel: +3226503179
  • Deputy: Dr Treena Burgess, Murdoch University, South St, 6150 Perth, Australia
    Tel: +61893607537

Working Group 3: Analysis of the level of education and awareness of risks associated with different pathways

  • Leader: Dr Mariella Marzano, Forest Research, Northern Research Station, Roslin, EH25 9SY, Scotland, United Kingdom
    Tel: +441314456973
  • Deputy: Dr Jelena Tomicevic, University of Belgrade, Faculty of Forestry, Kneza Viseslava 1, 11030 Belgrade, Serbia
    Tel: +381113053122

Working Group 4: Identification of research and data gathering needs

  • Leader: Dr Rimvys Vasaitis, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Dept. of Forest Mycology and Pathology, Dept. of Forest Mycology and Pathology, SE – 75007 Uppsala, Sweden
    Tel: +4618672729
  • Deputy: Professor Milka Glavendekic, University of Belgrade, Faculty of Forestry, Kneza Viseslava 1, 11030 Belgrade, Serbia
    Tel: +381113053899

Short Term Scientific Missions (STSMs) Coordinator

  • Dr Rimvys Vasaitis (see contact details above)

Target groups and end users of the PERMIT COST Action

Results from this Action will be of interest to a wide range of end-users:

  • The results will be directly relevant and applicable to the EU Standing Committee on Plant Health in relation to the continuing development and refinement of Directive 2000/29/EC.
  • Regional Plant Protection Organisations (contributors to the Action reside in EPPO, IAPSC, NAPPO and PPPO regions of the world) globally will also benefit. In particular, several members of the EPPO Forest Quarantine Panel will be involved in this COST Action.
  • In the wider context of forest and woodland protection from invasive pests and, therefore, in downstream benefits of maintaining and improving ecosystem health, end-users also include forest and woodland managers, wood-processing industries and the wider public for amenity and human health benefits.

Working groups of the PERMIT COST Action

The four Working Groups will address separate, but inter-related, aspects of how pathways provide the mechanisms for international movement of pests. While each Working Group will have a specific focus, their activities will overlap, particularly in Working Group 4.

Working Group 1:
Pathway characterisation linked to pest movements and trade patterns

Leader and Deputy: Dr Anna-Maria Vettraino, Dr Marc Kenis

Task 1: Pathway characterisation

Currently recognised phytosanitary pathways will be analysed in relation to their potential to be colonised by pests in their countries of origin and, subsequently, their capacity to ‘deliver’ pests to new locations. The analysis will be focused on the structural and biological carrying capacities of the pathways and related to types of pests and their generic biological characteristics that determine whether they are likely to be associated with particular pathways at origin.

Task 2: Evidence of movement of pests along pathways

There is currently only fragmented information on the degree of movement of pests along key pathways. Information on movements of forest pests globally will be gathered by direct interaction with National and Regional Plant Protection Organisations and by analysis of wider scientific literature on pest associations with identified pathways. By broadening to include general scientific information, inferences on potential and actual pest colonisation of pathways can be used to address generic pathway risks and potential management regimes. The evidence base will include pest interception data as well as pest establishment information. Particular emphasis in the European context will be use of the DAISIE database, augmented by a number of other international data sources.

Task 3: Trade patterns in relation to movement along pathways

Analysis of trends and volumes of movement along identified pathways will be used to estimate their extent and speed of movement. It will include traded goods and also the inadvertent movement of pests by individuals carrying personal goods. The analysis will provide information on the level of knowledge of stakeholders involved in pathway movements. This will be the basis for improved education and knowledge transfer in Task 5.

Working Group 2:
Development of generic risk mitigation measures to reduce pest movements along pathways

Leader and Deputy: Professor Jean-Claude Grégoire, Dr Treena Burgess

Task 4: Analysis and development of generic risk mitigation measures to reduce pest movements along pathways

Detailed information on pathways and their pest carrying capacities will be used to assess risk reduction strategies. This will include current measures that are generally pest-specific, and new generic measures that will address management of pests with particular biological attributes and associations with given pathways. The purpose will be to propose single or multiple measures to deliver a “manage once, remove many” approach to ensure freedom from pests for named pathways.

Working Group 3:
Analysis of the level of education and awareness of risks associated with different pathways

Leader and Deputy: Dr Mariella Marzano, Dr Jelena Tomicevic

Task 5: Education and dissemination of information for pathway risk awareness and risk reduction

Information will be collated and used as a basis for improved education and dissemination of information on pathway risk awareness. This will address both the reasons for trade along given pathways and the level of knowledge on risks of movement of pests for each pathway. While being comprehensive, particular focus will be on more intractable pathways such as Plants for Planting and personal movement of goods that could pose phytosanitary risks. The Working Group charged with carrying out this task includes socio-economic expertise so that appropriate techniques of data gathering and analysis are being applied to the information gathered.

Working Group 4:
Identification of research and data gathering needs

Leader and Deputy: Dr Rimvys Vasaitis, Professor Milka Glavendekic

Task 6: Identification of research and data gathering needs

The COST Action will employ structured data gathering and analysis to identify knowledge gaps and research needs on a pathway by pathway basis. By concentrating on generic risks and risk mitigation measures, PERMIT will provide a basis for development of novel risk reduction measures of value to the EC and internationally.