COVID 19 has raised the profile of biosecurity. However, biosecurity is not only about protecting human life. This issue brings together mini-reviews examining recent developments and thinking around some of the tools, behaviours and concepts around biosecurity. They illustrate the multi-disciplinary nature of the subject, demonstrating the interface between research and policy. Biosecurity practices aim to prevent the spread of harmful organisms; recognising that 2020 is the International Year of Plant Health, several focus on plant biosecurity although invasive species and animal health concerns are also captured. The reviews show progress in developing early warning systems and that plant protection organisations are increasingly using tools that compare multiple pest threats to prioritise responses. The bespoke modelling of threats can inform risk management responses and synergies between meteorology and biosecurity provide opportunities for increased collaboration. There is scope to develop more generic models, increasing their accessibility to policy makers. Recent research can improve pest surveillance programs accounting for real-world constraints. Social science examining individual farmer behaviours has informed biosecurity policy; taking a broader socio-cultural approach to better understand farming networks has the potential to change behaviours in a new way. When encouraging public recreationists to adopt positive biosecurity behaviours communications must align with their values. Bringing together the human, animal, plant and environmental health sectors to address biosecurity risks in a common and systematic manner within the One Biosecurity concept can be achieved through multi-disciplinary working involving the life, physical and social sciences with the support of legislative bodies and the public.
On March 11th 2020, the Director-General of the World Health Organisation characterised the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) situation as a pandemic, the first pandemic sparked by a coronavirus . With no vaccine to prevent the disease, countries resorted to non-pharmaceutical interventions including home isolation and quarantine, social distancing and cancelling events where people would gather; international travel was severely curtailed . Such unprecedented actions have no doubt raised the profile of the risks associated with the spread of harmful organisms and of biosecurity in general. However, biosecurity is not only about the protection of human life. In broad terms, biosecurity is about the protection of human, animal and plant life and the efforts employed to monitor, regulate and/or prevent the movement of threatening harmful organisms [3,4]. The Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (UN) recognises and promotes biosecurity as a concept directly relevant to the sustainability of agriculture, food safety and the protection of the environment [5,6]. The application of biosecurity measures reflects the desire to manage the risks associated with the spread (entry and establishment) of all types of organisms with the potential to cause deleterious effects, e.g. pests, pathogens and invasive species [7,8]. Biosecurity operations work on a continuum [9–11] and at a variety of scales, from the choices made by individuals [12,13] to the policies applied by national governments and the implementation of international agreements and conventions [7,14].
In this themed issue on biosecurity, we have brought together a series of mini reviews that examine recent developments and thinking around the tools, behaviours and concepts within biosecurity. They each illustrate the multi-disciplinary nature that contributes to its study, maintenance and improvement and demonstrate the interface between research and biosecurity policy.
The nine papers in this issue relate either to plant pests, animal health or invasive species. Recognising that the UN General Assembly declared 2020 as the International Year of Plant Health [15,16] and seek to raise global awareness of plant health biosecurity (Box 1), it is entirely appropriate that the majority of papers in this issue have a particular focus on plant biosecurity.
Keep plants healthy to achieve Zero Hunger and the Sustainable Development Goals.
Be careful when bringing plants and plant products across borders.
Make trading in plants and plant products safe by complying with the international plant health standards.
Keep plants healthy while protecting the environment.
Invest in plant health capacity development, research and outreach.
Strengthen monitoring and early warning systems to protect plants and plant health.
The issue begins with Rainsford et al.  reviewing the potential for automated early warning systems to alert risk managers and policy makers to invasive species threats. Whilst promising frameworks have been developed, many technological challenges, requiring close collaboration between developers and end users, remain to be overcome. MacLeod and Lloyd  summarise the recent uptake of prioritisation tools in use by policy makers confronted with multiple threats to plant biosecurity. The development of such tools has been driven by the recognition that resources to assess pest risks in detail are limited. Consequently, actions must be prioritised and targeted. Jones and Kleckowski  identify the challenges faced by the modelling community who develop detailed models with the potential to inform biosecurity decision making although such models are not always applied in practice. Ensuring that models are applicable, comprehensive, timely and accessible will more likely fit policy needs and lead to their adoption. Continuing the modelling theme, Robinet et al.  provide a review of models focused on forest health threats. Such models often focus on particular steps of the invasion process, such as entry, establishment and spread. Data are often lacking leading to significant uncertainty in model outputs. Using species traits to compensate for the paucity of data could make models more generic. Integrating invasion steps into a single model, together with risk mitigation options is a promising way forward. Key to many biosecurity models are environmental parameters including meteorological data which can be used to inform species distributions and future risks. Hemming and Macneill  provide an overview of different types of meteorological data and highlight their use in a range of biosecurity studies. Many synergies exist between meteorology and biosecurity and further collaboration and increased integration of meteorological and biosecurity organisations is possible. For example, future collaborations could integrate biological models with current weather forecasts to inform more immediate or short term biosecurity policy decision making. Taking rapid action against newly detected biosecurity threats can often be cost effective and surveillance to detect and delimit the extent of an incursion is critical. Koch et al.  describe how recent research can be used and take into account the practical issues to consider when designing an optimal cost-effective surveillance program. Demonstrating the multi-disciplinary nature of biosecurity, Maye and Chan  review social science studies examining individual farmer behaviours regarding on-farm biosecurity for animal health. Such studies have informed animal health and biosecurity policy. However, broader geographical and rural sociological research, which supplements investigations of the individual, offers a new way of engaging, motivating and encouraging farmers to manage and contain biosecurity threats on farms. From professional farmers managing livestock biosecurity risks we move to Hall et al.  who examines how to engage with recreationists who, through their behaviours, can spread invasive pests and diseases within the countryside. Successful engagement programs that stimulate behavioural change, and which aim to inhibit such spread, need to align with the values and motivations of the target stakeholders and emanate from trusted sources. We close with Hulme  powerfully advocating for a One Biosecurity concept that brings together the human, animal, plant and environmental health sectors to address biosecurity risks in a common and systematic manner. It can be achieved through multi-disciplinary working involving a diversity of specialisms from the life, physical and social sciences with the support of legislative bodies and the public. The papers in this issue demonstrate the span of the biosecurity continuum from early warning pre-border, to post-border modelling and surveillance tools. They also demonstrate the scale of biosecurity practices from efforts to integrate and align international sectoral policies within a unifying concept, to seeking behaviour change by individuals at a local scale. Regardless of the lead discipline or scale of operation, each paper illustrates contemporary ideas and practices that aim to better protect animal or plant life that is biosecurity.
The authors declare that there are no competing interests associated with the manuscript.
This work was conducted with the support of Defra.
We are very grateful for the help and support we received from Portland Press and in particular from Natalie Tawney and Emma Pettengale during the production of this themed issue on biosecurity. We also thank the authors for their manuscripts and the reviewers who freely provided their expert advice.