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Review article2024Peer reviewedOpen access

The Biosecurity Risks of International Forest Tree Seed Movements

Franic, Iva; Cleary, Michelle; Aday Kaya, Ayse Gulden; Braganca, Helena; Brodal, Guro; Cech, Thomas L.; Chandelier, Anne; Dogmus-Lehtijarvi, Tugba; Eschen, Rene; Lehtijarvi, Asko; Ormsby, Michael; Prospero, Simone; Schwanda, Katharina; Sikora, Katarzyna; Szmidla, Hanna; Talgo, Venche; Tkaczyk, Milosz; Vettraino, Anna Maria; Perez-Sierra, Ana


Purpose of ReviewBecause tree seeds have been considered a low-risk pathway for the spread of plant pathogenic fungi, their international movement is not subject to strict phytosanitary regulation. However, recent studies have provided scientific evidence that the biosecurity risk of seed trade may not be as negligible as assumed. This review summarises current knowledge about seed trade activity across the world and seed-borne plant pathogenic fungi and highlights knowledge gaps that need to be filled to mitigate the risk of spreading tree pathogens via seeds.Recent FindingsSeveral outbreaks of severe tree diseases in natural forests and plantations worldwide have been linked to fungal pathogens spread by seed trade. Indeed, recent studies based on modern sequencing technologies have shown that tree seeds harbour highly diverse fungal communities, including well-known pathogens and fungal taxa belonging to unknown species. While it has become clear that even apparently healthy seeds can carry potentially pathogenic fungi, the likelihood of seed-borne pathogens being introduced and becoming established, spreading and causing impact in the new environment is still unclear which challenges the assessment of the phytosanitary risk posed by seed trade.SummaryOur analyses show that large amounts of tree seeds have been traded among countries and continents. Based on published literature, the risk of spreading pathogenic fungi via tree seed movement is high. However, the role of the taxonomically and functionally diverse fungal communities associated with seeds is still poorly understood. In particular, more research is needed to assess the likelihood of seed-borne fungi being transmitted to the seedlings and spreading and causing impact in the new environment.


Seed-borne pathogens; Seed-transmitted pathogens; Seed trade; Phytosanitary risk; Invasive pathogens; Non-native pathogens; Fungi

Published in

Current Forestry Reports
2024, Volume: 10, number: 2, pages: 89–102 Publisher: SPRINGER INT PUBL AG